“CETA is a game changer for major trade agreements”. The Sting reports live from EBS 2015

The Sting clicks at the CETA session during European Business Summit 2015. (European Sting, 07/05/2015)

The Sting clicks at the CETA session during European Business Summit 2015. (European Sting, 07/05/2015)

Trade has become one of Europe’s main keys to unlock future growth and so it became one of the hottest topics in Brussels’ finest parlour this year. But the message that European Business Summit wanted to launch in 2015 is that when it comes to trade in Europe, it certainly is not all about TTIP.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or simply CETA, was at the spotlight during the European Business Summit this year, given the prominent presence of Canada in this year’s edition. Although the negotiation process recently concluded, there are still a few open points of discussion, especially around the time that will pass before an official approval by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament is made. The CETA session explored the topic in detail and the Sting was there to cover it.

After moderator Paul Adamson, chairman of Forum Europe, welcomed the attendees, it was Steve Verheul, Canada’s Chief Trade Negotiator, to take the stage. “CETA is overall a balanced agreement, a very ambitious deal which will bring a lot of Benefits”, he declared. Mr. Verheul had no doubts about the “recipe” behind it: “Thanks to common values, share thoughts and common views we went through very productive negotiations and so we got to this agreement”. This very positive point led us to challenge Mr. Verheul with a question which necessarily drew the attention towards TTIP.

Indeed it came as natural for us to ask Mr. Verheul why other trade agreements don’t go as smoothly, if success is sitting on common values and shared views. “Do you think Canadian values differ so much to American values? Why the EU doesn’t seem to find an agreement so easily with the US, although the values set is apparently so similar?” – the Sting asked Mr Verheul.

“The role of Governments is basically the most important thing in this kind of delicate negotiations”, he told us. “Generally speaking yes, I think that for many things Canada is closer to the EU than the US. The two governments had exactly the same views on many aspects, like safety, culture, etc.”, Mr. Verheul continued, “and this made it [to find an agreement] easier”. During the session he has also drawn the attention to a very delicate aspect, especially in relation to the TTIP negotiations. “We have never asked the EU to modify, or even lower its standards, or somehow adapt to our system”, Mr Verheul stressed.

In the same session, Mr. Markus Beyrer, Director General of BusinessEurope, expressed his satisfaction for the “important result” reached. “This agreement is a game-changer”, he often repeated last Wednesday at the conference we attended.“Of course we have negotiated attentively and we have changed some points – it’s normal – but we always wanted to take a step forward”.

Mr. Beyrer also gave his opinion on the Canada-EU value scheme telling us that the EU shares the same values with both Canada and US, but when it comes to TTIP the matter is much more complex. The EU-US agreement has itself more complicated aspects, like, for instance, public procurement. “Most of the critics around these trade agreements are focused on globalisation, but this is our chance to shake globalisation”, he underlined.

The EU-Canada CETA negotiations were concluded on 1 August 2014, and the trade agreement was officially presented on 25 September 2014 by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission’s former President Jose Manuel Barroso during an EU – Canada Summit at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto.

If approved, the agreement will begin to come into effect in 2016 at the earliest, when 98% of the tariffs between the two parties will be eliminated.

A joint study by Canada and the EU revealed that CETA could deliver a 20% boost in bilateral trade and a €11.6 billion annual increase to the EU economy.

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