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Canada-Europe trade deal on track for scheduled implementation

CETA includes protection of the state’s right to regulate in many areas, says the top Canadian negotiator

A senior European Union politician says he’s hopeful the Canada-Europe free trade agreement will come into effect on schedule, sometime in 2017.

Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee, made the comments while visiting Ottawa and Montreal for a series of intensive meetings that are part of the committee’s final assessment of the deal.

However, for that to happen, the deal has to win final approval in both Canada and Europe before the end of 2016, or very early in the new year, he said.

Artis Pabriks, a Latvian MEP and the standing rapporteur for trade with Canada, was upbeat about the conclusion of the deal.

“It’s probably the most advanced trade agreement in the world,” he said. “It’s part of the European Union in a global world.”

The deal will bring economic benefits to both Canadians and Europeans, he said.

After almost 17 months of negotiations, Canada and the European Union announced in February they had agreed on a legal text for a proposed free trade deal and suggested it would be ratified by the end of this year and in effect in 2017.

Steve Verheul, the chief Canadian negotiator for the deal, has told the Commons trade committee that even if parts of the deal have to be ratified by individual EU members, that will come after the European Parliament has approved it.

That will result in about 95 per cent of the deal coming into effect with the final five per cent subject to member ratification.

He told NDP MP Tracey Ramsey that he’s confident the deal will be ratified in Europe.

“I visited the majority of the EU member states over the past couple of years and there’s strong support in all of the member states, even the smaller ones see significant new opportunities that could arise,” Verheul said.

The Canada-Europe trade agreement breaks new ground in the world of international trade deals because it categorically states in any investor-state dispute, the state always reserves the right to regulate in many areas, he said. That right was clarified in various sections of the agreement including the investment chapter following the end of initial negotiations.

“We have additional protections for areas like environment and labour, that type of thing,” Verheul said. “We wanted to make sure that there’s a very clean line between the government’s right to regulate and the rights of investors to be able to challenge any impact of those regulations.”

Verheul told Conservative MP Randy Hoback that the process for resolving disputes between Europe and Canada has been modified to make it more independent and transparent. Both sides were satisfied with the outcome.

“When we started discussing the changes to the investment chapter, we found that we were pursuing similar goals,” Verheul said.

The goal is to have science be the basis for all trade decisions, he said. That will include better regulatory co-operation, something he noted both jurisdictions are taking seriously by facilitating dialogue between regulators in Canada and the EU as new regulations are developed.

Harmonizing existing regulations is difficult, although work in that area is continuing, he said. The bigger focus is on making sure future regulations never become a barrier.

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