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Be Bold for CETA - By Canadian Ambassador to France, the Honourable Lawrence Cannon

With the provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union today, September 21st, some people are worried about its “lack of ambition.” A treaty, no matter how long or comprehensive, probably cannot fulfill everyone’s  expectations. But let there be no mistake, this progressive and balanced trade agreement, which aims to create jobs, implements a number of mutual safeguards, including on environmental protection and brings the relationship between France and Canada to a newplaying field.

 As of this morning , 98% of all tariff lines between Canada and France are duty-free. Canadians will therefore have access to a wider varietyof transformed agricultural products, at a lower cost, as well as to wine and spirits, cosmetics, high-technology products, pharmaceutical products or fashion merchandise for which France is famous.  With 42 new French geographical indications (AOP, AOC, IGP) now recognized by Canada and protected through CETA, a number of regional products will complement the already extensive list of wines and spirits that have long been cherished in Canada. Some people have argued that the list is too short. But what they are not telling you is that through CETA, it will be possible to further expand this list, in consultation with stakeholders.

 CETA also provides Canadian and EU companies with unprecedented access to government procurement opportunities.Through CETA, Canada is opening its federal, provincial and municipal procurement markets to include public transit, public works, consulting services and many other areas where French expertise is recognized worldwide. Let us not forget that CETA represents new opportunities not only for large enterprises but also, and perhaps more importantly, for small and medium-sized French and Canadian companies. It is difficult to oppose the creation of potential new jobs. It is worth pausing here to remember that in France more than 6 million jobs depend on exports. and that every billion euros of exports creates 10,000 additional jobs.

 But CETA is also a new, progressive type of trade agreement – one that seeks to shape globalization so that it contributes to the well-being of our citizens. Contrary to what some people argue, CETA ensures economic growth goes hand-in-hand with workers' rights and high levels of environmental protection. It guarantees respect for what is referred to in France as collective preferences,  cultural exceptions and, more broadly, the governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest and uphold strong public services.

 Some people claim that CETA will, in certain circumstances, allow an investor to sue a State, and in so doing will deny  countries’ and citizens’ their sovereignty. What travesty! This argument  ignores the fact that the Agreement guarantees a clear break from the private arbitration this is inherent in thousands of international treaties, (more than 90 of which are signed by France). It establishes a tribunal composed of members appointed by and paid for by the State. It also provides for an appeal mechanism where the members of the tribunal may not concurrently serve as witness, expert or counsel in any other investor-state dispute. Above all, as the nine experts recently commissioned by the French government to study CETA rightly noted, the treaty’s provisions have been defined in such a way that "there is no question of seeing in this treaty an instrument which, by itself, would lead to a decline in environmental and health policies in Europe or in Canada.” In addition, the Agreement will encourage  dialogues with a view to "multilateralizing" these advances. Us Canadians and Europeans believe in multilateralism!

 In France and in Canada, agricultural and health issues have attracted a lot of attention. However, nothing in the Agreement calls current European standards on foodstuffs into question – not even on growth hormones for animals, or GMOs, or on any other issue that may be of concern in the future. There are so many inaccuracies that are being touted on this subject! While the Agreement will allow Canada and the European Union to discuss potential convergences  on some standards and regulations, this collaboration could only take place if both parties agree. We Canadians intend to cooperate to the fullest extent permitted by our laws and regulations; we believe that our European partners with do the same, and with due regard to the precautionary principle.

 The strongest relationships are those that benefit everyone. The ties between the French and Canadians go back centuries. Canada and the European Union are long-term strategic partners who  share numerous progressive values. Think, for example, of the great complicity between France and Canada in the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate. From today on, through CETA, Canada and the EU – as a result to France’s diligent leadership – have laid the foundation for a new generation of trade agreements to the benefit of all. Yes, in today’s world, which is at times drawn to protectionism and populism of all breeds, to be bold for CETA is an opportunity that should not be missed.

Canada-France Trade Relations

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