A glimmer brightens autumn

NEWS Published

COMMENTARY The EU and Canada have entered an important free trade agreement. This covers customs duties as expected, but also includes significant opening in market access in many respects. The agreement can be seen as a template for what can be achieved in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the USA. This opens the possibility for a huge transatlantic free trade area.

The agreement between the EU and Canada is highly significant. For the EU, it is firstly useful as comparison in relation to ongoing negotiations for a similar agreement with the USA. And for Canada, the agreement has sizable economic value.

But the economic benefits for the EU are not small either – the agreement contains many more benefits than simply eliminating customs tariffs of all kinds. However, these are not insignificant, as EU based companies will save a total of nearly € 5000 million annually in these duties alone for exports to Canada.

This cost reduction is all the more significant considering the competitive situation for such fully developed markets as the EU and Canada, even though this represents only a few percent of the total value of goods traded. The agreement involves completely eliminating or significantly reducing all tariffs for both manufactured goods, and, importantly, for agricultural and fishery products. Costs for type testing will decrease through a mutual recognition of certain standards – especially for auto vehicles – and trade in services has been significantly opened, especially in relation to financial services, telecoms, energy, and maritime transport.

But the new agreement doesn’t stop there, it also includes: a process for successive mutual recognition of professional qualifications, obstacles related to investing will be removed, and the Canadian market for public procurement will be opened to EU companies. The agreement also strengthens the standing of EU IPR protections in Canada, including protection for geographic indications (GI) such as Parma ham and Swedish Västerbotten cheese.

Estimates for the agreement are that trade between the EU and Canada will increase as much as 23% or approximately € 26 billion, with a positive impact on EU GNP of approximately € 11 to 12 billion annually. But now, the primary consideration is the legal ‘cleaning’ of the agreement texts and approval by the parliaments in Canada and the EU, and then all 28 EU member states. This gives rise to serious concern that no narrow national special interest gets in the way of all these benefits in the end!

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