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EU Canada summit : CETA on the agenda

Mathilde Dupré, 23 November 2023

[English] [français]

The effects of the partial and provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada are once again under discussion, on the occasion of the 19th EU-Canada summit taking place in St John’s, Canada, on the 23 and 14 November. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, are representing there the EU.

At the same time, the European Parliament is also examining the issue. On 28 November, the Committee on International Trade will vote on the draft report by Javier Moreno Sanchez (a Spanish MEP from the Social Democrat group), which aims to urge all EU Member States to ratify the CETA in order to trigger the definitive application of the agreement.

As a reminder, officially signed during the Canada-EU summit of October 2016, CETA has been provisionally applied since 21 September 2017, i.e. for more than six years. But important provisions, in particular relating to investment protection, have still not been applied, as not all Member States have ratified the agreement.

State of play of national ratifications

As of December 2022, 17 member states have completed the domestic ratification: Austria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. (The United Kingdom, which has left the EU, also ratified CETA while it was still a member state.)

This means that 10 EU Member states (Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland and Slovenia) have not

In July 2020, the House of Representatives of Cyprus rejected ratifying CETA; however, the EU was not officially notified of the vote. The Cypriot government intends to bring CETA to the parliament again at a later point.

In November 2022, the Irish Supreme Court ruled, in a case brought by a national parliamentarian, that CETA is unconstitutional and not compatible with national law. Therefore, the parliamentary ratification presupposes changes to the country’s Arbitration Act.

In France, in 2019, the National Assembly voted in favour of the ratification law of CETA, with a 266-213 vote, under a fast-track procedure. However, the text was never put on the Senate’s agenda, for lack of a majority.

Treaty provisions already obsolete

The European Parliament’s draft report makes no mention of the CETA provisions, which already appear to be out of step with Europe’s new approach to trade and investment policy.

  • The CETA’s chapter on investment protection does not comply at all with the new requirements laid down by the European Parliament, following the modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty (INI report of 23/06/2023). Investments in fossil fuels are not excluded from the investment protection provisions (para 21). The substantive clauses still contain ambiguous terms (para 30) and the protection offered is still subject to a particularly long survival clause (para 31).
  • Nor is the trade and sustainable development chapter in line with the European Commission’s commitments of June 2022. Above all, the EU has rejected the concrete proposals put forward by Canada in 2020 to make certain provisions of this chapter more binding.

Provisional impact assessment

Six years after the provisional application of the agreement began, it seems important to make an initial qualitative and quantitative assessment of the effects of CETA. Few reports or assessments have been published to date, and the European Parliament’s draft report appears very incomplete.

The European Commission drew up fact sheets in September 2022, to mark the 5-year anniversary of provisional application. But these documents present the information in a very positive light, even when the facts say otherwise. For instance, they portray the agreement as very green, even though it has boosted trade in fossil fuels and fertilisers in particular. For That’s why we’ve undertaken a little fact-checking.

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