CETA: it’s on again

The vicissitudes of CETA (Canada Europe Trade Agreement) continue. As of today, Canada and the 28 EU (European Union) countries are reportedly ready to sign off on the free trade agreement and a lengthy addendum meant to address European concerns over dispute resolution.

CETA’s dispute resolution provisions, modeled after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), have been contentious from the start for some European governments and social organizations worried that the terms favour corporate business over national and local decision making. Although the most vocal protests originated in Germany, it was Belgium – a country whose “two solitudes” have created constitutional problems that make Canada’s wrangling with Qu├ębec separatism look like child’s play – that brought things to a head with a last minute refusal to sign and precipitated Chrystia Freeland’s frustrated walk-out last week.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Minister of International Trade‘Freeland, Canada’s International Trade Minister, hasn’t yet confirmed the details of the unpublished “joint interpretive declaration” that was negotiated as an annex to the agreement in order to clarify the dispute resolution’s application and mollify European critics.

CBC News has outlined the main points of the annex and provided a link to a leaked Belgian copy (in French) of the annex text: “What’s in the declarations that sealed the Canada-EU trade deal? Two declarations emerged on Thursday: one Canada negotiated, one is Belgium-specific”.

In the House of Commons this week Freeland took some partisan criticism from the Conservative Party, which negotiated most of CETA on the Canadian side, but her walk-out appears vindicated today. See CBC News, 2016-10-28, “‘The tactic has paid off’: Freeland’s dramatic walk out may have saved CETA. Despite criticism of minister’s ‘visible emotion,’ Canada and Europe seem near a deal“.