The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has broad support among Canadian civil society organisations. Canadians are looking forward to the expected benefits from the deal and are aware of potential challenges.
They have therefore already taken steps to prepare certain sectors of their economy for CETA’s entry into force. As in Europe, business community strongly supports the deal while trade unions in Canada express numerous doubts.
EESC’s mission to Canada
These are just a few conclusions emerging from the EESC’s mission to Canada at the end of November that I had the pleasure to participate in. Our EESC delegation had the opportunity to meet with a large number of civil society organisations, including business representatives, trade unions, associations of agricultural and food producers, NGOs, think-tanks and academics and hear about their expectations and concerns as regards CETA.
Political support for CETA is broad
There is no large political party opposing it. The overwhelming majority in the parliament is in favour of the deal, thus by April/May 2017 parliament will probably not only ratify the deal but will also pass all of the requisite implementing regulations for its application.
The business community in Canada
Is supporting starting implementation of CETA as soon as possible for a number of reasons. Firstly, because of its obvious economic benefits. Secondly, Canadians are hoping to secure CETA and gain first-mover advantage. Making CETA happen as the first transatlantic deal (before TTIP) will boost its role and create more impetus for trade with Europe. Thirdly, by gaining access to European markets, Canada will reduce its dependence on the US market. This is especially important for Canadian SMEs. A majority of exporting Canadian SMEs operate on the US market, which means they are particularly vulnerable to any geopolitical changes. The EU is Canada’s second largest trading partner after the US, but the trade volume between Canada and its southern neighbour is more than eight times greater than with the EU. So is the case for investments.
Moreover, due to the fact that TTIP is being possibly at freeze, closer cooperation between the EU and Canada, which already cooperates closely with the US, places Canada as a linking platform between the US and the EU, which might generate additional benefits.
The dairy sector in particular is among the most vulnerable sectors of the Canadian economy that CETA might have a negative impact on. That is why the government in Ottawa has already proposed certain solutions to farmers that will facilitate increasing their competitiveness and minimising the negative effects of the deal. They see CETA as a factor that will spur on restructuring of certain sectors of the economy.
Trade Unions in Canada
Certainly, not everybody in Canada is positive towards CETA and meetings with trade unions clearly showed that they have a defensive and (in my opinion) not fact-based position. They seem to support protectionism and see their prospects in closing off markets. Frankly, I see no immediate prospect of convincing this group. Just as with TTIP, there are many unjustified and false statements circulating about CETA – such as concerns about its impact on environmental protection, labour and right to regulate.
As CETA is a new type of agreement, its implementation must be closely monitored. I was pleased to note that, apart from the trade unions, all representatives of Canadian civil society are eager to actively join the monitoring process. The monitoring will be crucial due to the fact that support for the deal is broad but shallow. There is a clear need for continuous feedback in order to improve implementation. Canadians are aware that CETA is a long-term project and that its benefits will not come in year or two.
Discussions in Canada
Clearly showed that there is an unspoken but visible concern about the future of the ratification process in the EU. That is also why implementation of CETA should now be a priority in the EU. The success of CETA will be a success story for free trade in general – so desperately needed at a time of growing anti-trade and anti-global narrative.
About the author:
Jacek P. Krawczyk President of the Employers’ Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
President of the EESC’s Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee