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Published: 2017-02-17

EP votes in favour of CETA

Shipping EP votes in favour of CETA

Photo: European Commission

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, has been approved by the European Parliament.

A total of 408 votes were in favour, 254 against, the remaining 33 being abstentions. 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 April 1st, 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.

The new agreement between the EU and Canada 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.

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.

The CETA deal will not remove tariff barriers in the fields of public services, audio-visual, and transport services, as well as a few agricultural products, like dairy, poultry, and eggs.

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.

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 EU-Canada SPA was approved by 506 votes to 142, with 43 abstentions.

“By adopting CETA, we chose openness and growth and high standards over protectionism and stagnation. Canada is a country with whom we share common values and an ally we can rely on. Together we can build bridges, instead of a wall, for the prosperity of our citizens. CETA will be a lighthouse for future trade deals all over the world,” Artis Pabriks, Parliament’s rapporteur for the CETA agreement and member of the European People’s Party, commented after the vote.

“CETA is not only about commerce, imports and exports, about profits. It aims to improve people’s lives,” Justin Trudeau Canadian Prime Minister, said, and further added, “Trade needs to work for people. We live in a time when many people are worried that the current system only benefits society’s luckiest few. And their concern is valid. This anxiety towards the economy and trade can be addressed only if we ensure that trade is inclusive so that everyone benefits. And CETA delivers just that.”

Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations, said in a press release, “We are pleased CETA will bring legal certainty and a clear legal framework, especially given today’s context of rising protectionism. While shipping can be considered as more liberalised than many other sectors, this is in very few cases backed by international legal binding agreements. The consequence is that it is very easy to revert and to close markets.”

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