Canada, EU formally conclude free trade pact

GMT 23:11 2014 Friday ,26 September

Arab Today, arab today Canada, EU formally conclude free trade pact

Herman Van Rompuy (L)
Ottawa - AFP

Canadian and European leaders on Friday formally concluded a free trade agreement that is widely seen as a template for a larger pact between the EU and the United States.
The text of the deal, which is 1,600 pages long, was published and now the long ratification process will begin, amid lingering concerns from some EU member states.
Germany, in particular, has pressed for a contentious arbitration mechanism to be excluded from both the Canada deal and an eventual EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The "investor-state dispute settlement" provision will allow private investors to sue governments if they feel local laws threatened their investments, and idea opposed in Berlin.
Romania and Bulgaria may also try to block the deal because their citizens are required to have visas to travel to Canada, reportedly to stop a feared wave of refugee claims by ethnic Roma.
But EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht warned a German newspaper on Thursday that no changes can be made to the deal without killing it.
"If we re-open negotiations on CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), the deal will be dead," De Gucht told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Thursday.
At a joint press conference in Ottawa on Friday with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the pact "was fully backed by all member states of the European Union including Germany."
"It would be very strange," he added, if Germany tried to block the deal which will benefit Germany the most as the EU's largest economy and exporter.
Canada, meanwhile, pledged in a statement to remove its visa requirement on Bulgarian and Romanian travellers "as soon as possible."
After the text is translated into 23 languages and the wording is scrutinized for accuracy by lawyers, CETA will be signed next year and come into force in 2016, Barroso said.
The pact will eliminate 98 percent of tariffs on goods and services, increase cross-Atlantic worker mobility and harmonize professional qualifications.
- 'Game changer' -
Hundreds of millions of dollars in duties will be eliminated.
The EU will notably gain access to bid on Canadian federal, provincial and municipal government procurements and public contracts estimated to be worth more than Can$150 billion, and which had been closed to all but local firms.
The EU will also receive protections for the use of geographical indications such as those on Roquefort or Grana Padano cheeses.
For sensitive sectors such as beef, pork, sweetcorn on the EU side and dairy in Canada, preferential access is limited to quotas. Poultry and eggs will not be liberalised on either side.
Harper, who has already started campaigning for re-election next year on his economic record, including expanding export opportunities for Canadian companies, called the Canada-EU agreement a "game changer."
CETA, he said, "is deep in substance and broader in scope than any other agreement in Canadian history.
"Upon implementation, this will generate a massive increase of business and thousands of new jobs."
The EU is second only to the United States among Canada's trading partners, while Canada ranks as the 12th most important trading partner for the EU.
The value of bilateral trade in goods between them is 60 billion euros (Can$85 billion).
Officials said free trade will boost bilateral trade by more than 20 percent.
It could also be used as a template for EU efforts to conclude a similar Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States, touted as the biggest free-trade agreement ever.
Closed door negotiations on the TTIP started last year.


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