EU-Canada trade pact: some key questions

Landmark pact has sparked a wave of debate in Europe

Afp January 14, 2017
(L-R) European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Donald Tusk and Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico attend the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, October 30, 2016. PHOTO:REUTERS

PARIS: Every trade agreement produces winners and losers and the free-trade deal between the EU and Canada, still pending ratification, is no exception.

The deal is just one example of controversy ignited by trade talks.

Others are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Donald Trump wants to renegotiate, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he has threatened to scrap, and the US-EU TTIP pact, which is now out favour on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here we illustrate the controversies by looking in more detail at the EU-Canada deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Signed in October, the landmark pact, which will affect more than 500 million people, has sparked a wave of debate in Europe, particularly in France.

But the jury is still out on whether it will herald a new era for specialist local producers or simply open the doors to a flood of hormone-treated, genetically modified ‘junk’ food.

CETA will remove 99% of customs duties between the two sides, in a big win for European exporters, who will have easier access to the North American market.

But European businesses that are more reliant on internal markets are likely to be vulnerable to competition from Canadian firms.

Such is the law of free trade, says Radu Vranceanu, professor of economics at France’s ESSEC business school. “A large number of jobs exist in France thanks to exports and commercial trade,” he told AFP.

Thomas Guenole, a political scientist at Sciences-Po in Paris, believes the benefits will be skewed towards big business. “CETA will increase the margins of large, globalised firms. They will be the winners,” he told AFP.

“The working class and white collar professionals will lose out.”

Matthias Fekl, France’s minister of state for trade has said the pact will recognise another 42 French geographical indications which will be able to freely enter the Canadian market and will also help pork and dairy products.

But his argument was dismissed as “ridiculous” by Dominique Plihon of the anti-globalisation group Attac who said that specialist French products, which were locally-produced on a small scale, would not benefit from the pact.

“On the contrary, it will make it easier to bring junk food into Europe, such as hormone-treated meat and GM products,” he warned.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2017.

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