Trans-Atlantic Trade

Herman van Rompuy, Stephen Harper and José Manuel Barroso, walking on a red carpet (from left to right)The new Canada-E.U. trade agreement will open doors on both sides of the Atlantic.

by Constantine E. Passaris.

Canada and the European Union reached an historic agreement on trans-Atlantic free trade last year. The summit of Canadian and European Union leaders on September 26 marked the end of a long and arduous journey of trade negotiations that began in 2009. The official text of the Canada-E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which runs to over 1,600 pages, confirms Canada’s reputation as a world leader in the crafting of international free trade agreements.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) sets a new standard for international trade agreements. No other contemporary bilateral or multilateral free trade agreement embraces so many economic, trade, and investment issues under the umbrella of a single collective agreement. The Canada-E.U. trade agreement has caught the attention of nations around the world. It is lauded as an ambitious trade agreement that is more innovative than older trade agreements and more avant-garde in its scope and substance. And CETA is certainly Canada’s most significant trade agreement since the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

CETA’s groundbreaking features include a comprehensive liberalization of trade in goods and services. It embraces new provisions to facilitate, enhance and encourage the two-way flow of investments. And it contains improved and modernized regulations for dealing with trade-related disputes. CETA also promotes sustainable development, cultural diversity, and the regulation of the public sector.

One of the more controversial features of the CETA is its investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which allows corporations the right to sue for damages incurred from new legislation that adversely affects the investors’ profitability. In this and other arenas such as intellectual property and genetically modified organisms, CETA serves as a new template for trade agreements. These are areas of economic engagement that have never been covered by previous international trade agreements.

The E.U. is the world’s largest single market, with 28 member countries, a combined population in excess of half a billion people, and a total GDP in excess of 13 trillion euros. Greater access to this lucrative free trade zone for Canada will create more private sector initiatives, business opportunities, and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.

Canada is the now first G7 country to sign a trade deal with the E.U., and thus Canada is first to have free trade access to more than half of the world’s economy. The E.U., despite its contemporary economic challenges, remains …

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