EU, Canada Confirm CETA Provisional Application Date

13 July 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a joint statement this weekend announcing that the provisional application of the planned EU-Canada trade accord will begin in just over two months’ time.

“Meeting at the G20 in Hamburg, reconfirming our joint commitment to the rules-based international trading system, we agreed to set the date of 21 September 2017 to start the provisional application of the agreement, thus allowing for all the necessary implementing measures to be taken before that date,” the leaders said on 8 July.

They also touted the accord’s potential in cementing their commitment to shared values across various areas, which they explained could transform globalisation in the direction of a model that best supports their citizens – while also beginning “a new chapter in the relationship between the EU and Canada.”

The news that the implementation of the bulk of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will begin later this year comes after weeks of haggling over implementation issues, such as how tariff-rate quotas will be divvied up in Canada regarding imported European cheeses and what this means for market access in practice – even though the trade accord itself has been finalised.

A spokesperson for Canadian trade minister François-Philippe Champagne told Reuters this week that the two sides will need to finalise the dairy question by September. Media reports have also suggested that the EU wanted to see greater clarity from their trans-Atlantic partners over how certain issues on new regulations and patents for drugs will be dealt with in practice.

The September start date is later than previously envisioned by officials, who had suggested following the European Parliament and Canadian legislature ratifications that the deal might be provisionally applied by July of this year. EU officials had earlier pushed for an April start date.

The trade agreement, which both sides say is the most ambitious accord they have ever finalised, has also been signed and ratified by the European Parliament and the Canadian legislature. (See Bridges Weekly, 18 May 2017 and 16 February 2017)

Ratification updates

Provisional application means that over 90 percent of the deal’s provisions will begin taking effect from September, but that areas such as investment protection and the new investment court system that require approval by EU member state and regional legislatures will have to wait. (See Bridges Weekly, 16 February 2017)

Meanwhile, the ratification at the EU member state level has also faced some hurdles, in a potential indication of difficulties to come. For instance, Spain’s legislature was reportedly only able to ratify the agreement last week once the political party opposing it abstained from the vote, after having previously suggested they may vote it down.

Italian farmers have also raised their own concerns over the expected influx of cheap Canadian wheat with different protein contents, along with the claim that the growing of that wheat uses a controversial pesticide, while upstream producers of products such as pasta and flour have welcomed the prospect of these imports and citing the strict food safety controls in the North American nation.

To date, the legislatures of three EU member states – Latvia, Denmark, and Spain – have voted to pass CETA. (See Bridges Weekly, 2 March 2017)

ICTSD reporting; “EU, Canada agree start of free trade agreement,” REUTERS, 8 July 2017; “Italy’s farmers ‘demonizing’ Canadian wheat in bid to protect domestic industry,” CBC, 6 July 2017; “Trudeau pushes EU to apply free trade pact provisionally,” EURACTIV, 29 June 2017; “España ratifica el CETA, el tratado de libre comercio con Canadá ,” AGENCIA EFE, 29 June 2017; “More trouble for Canada-EU trade deal, as drug changes delay implementation,” CBC, 29 June 2017.   

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