On 15 February 2017, the European parliament announced that it gave its approval to the EU – Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The deal was approved by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions and could apply provisionally from as early as April 2017.
The announcement summarised benefits as follows:
- Boosting trade – CETA will remove tariffs on most traded goods and services. It also provides for the mutual recognition of certification for a wide range of products. Canada is to open up its federal and municipal public procurement markets, which are already open in Europe. EU suppliers of services ranging from sea shipping through telecoms and engineering to environmental services and accountancy will get access to the Canadian market.
- Protecting farm produce and social standards – In talks, the EU secured protection for over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market. Sustainable development clauses were included to safeguard environmental and social standards and ensure that trade and investment enhance both. To allay citizens’ concerns that the deal gives too much power to multinational companies and that governments will not be able to legislate to protect health, safety or the environment, the EU and Canada recognise in both the preamble to the deal and an attached joint declaration that its provisions apply without prejudice to the domestic right to regulate.
- Exceptions – The CETA deal will not remove tariff barriers in the fields of public services, audiovisual and transport services and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs.
- More transparent investment protection – In response to European parliamentary pressure, the controversial investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism was replaced by the Investment Court System (ICS), which aims to ensure government control over the choice of arbitrators and enhances transparency.
- EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement – MEPs also gave their consent to the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Complementing the CETA, this deal aims to step up EU-Canada bilateral cooperation on a wide range of non-trade issues such as foreign and security policy, counter-terrorism, fighting organised crime, sustainable development, research and culture.
The CETA deal could apply provisionally on the first day of the second month following the date both sides have notified each other that they completed all necessary internal procedures. MEPs expect this to be the case on 1 April 2017 at the earliest. As CETA was declared a mixed agreement by the European Commission in July 2016, it will also need to be ratified by national and regional parliaments.