22nd Oct 2016

EU and Canada negotiators reach agreement on trade deal

  • The free trade deal is set to be signed in September (Photo: Jacob Earl)

The EU and Canada Tuesday (5 August) reached agreement on a free trade pact which is likely to be a blueprint for a larger such deal with the US.

Billed as a historic by Canada, the deal aims to boost trade and cut tariffs and is due to be signed at a bilateral summit next month in Ottawa.

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“The text is now being seen by EU member states and the Canadian provinces and territories and it will be formally concluded in September,” a European commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels.

An initial political agreement last October with Ottawa led to months of wrangling over issues like dairy agricultural quotas, financial services, maritime transport, and investors' ability to sue governments in special arbitration proceedings outside national court systems.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the time announced the partial agreement in Brussels alongside EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

The deal, talks on which started in May 2009, still needs the final approval of 28 member states in order to be ratified.

The Financial Times earlier this week reported Germany had opposed the investor protection clauses in the agreement over fears its standards on environment and consumer protection would be weakened.

But an unnamed Canadian official told the Wall Street Journal that Germany's concerns over the so-called "investor-state dispute settlement" had been settled months ago.

Last year, Romania also threatened to block the deal unless Ottawa lifted visa requirements for Romanian citizens.

Once enacted, bilateral trade between Canada and EU is expected to increase by some 20 percent while 98 percent of existing tariff lines are to be cut. Most industrial, agricultural and fisheries duties would be eliminated.

Canada’s trade ministry in a statement said it would create almost 80,000 jobs in the country and increase its annual income by around €8.2 billion.

The European Commission, for its part, estimates an annual GDP increase in the EU of €11.6 billion within seven years following the implementation of the agreement.

Details of the pact will not be made public until the September summit.

Canada’s provinces and territories have already received the complete text and have been briefed on its content as well as on next steps, notes Canada's trade ministry.

The 1,500 page document still needs to be translated into 23 different EU languages and then poured over by lawyers before final ratification, possibly in 2016.

The EU-Canada pact is widely viewed as a blue-print for a much larger free trade agreement, still under negotiation, with the US.

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