European and Canadian negotiators formalized a free trade agreement (FTA) that is generally considered a template for the ongoing free trade negotiations – also referred to as TTIP – between Brussels and Washington. The 1600-page-long text of the agreement was published on Friday (26 September) and is now ready to undergo a process of ratification both in Canada and in the 28 EU Member States.
Some states, Germany in particular, have already voiced concerns, pressing for a contentious arbitration mechanism to be excluded from both Canada-EU FTA as well as a potential EU-US free trade deal. Under the newly formalized deal between Canada and the EU, the “investor-state dispute settlement” provision will enable private investors to sue governments if they have the impression that regional laws impede on their investments, which is strongly opposed by Berlin.
Romania and Bulgaria are also expected to attempt to block the agreement as their nationals are required to have visas to travel to Canada, allegedly to mitigate fears that ethnic Roma would start immigrating to the country. Yet, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht warned that no changes could be made to the current version of the deal without killing it. “If we re-open negotiations on CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), the deal will be dead,” De Gucht had told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a day before it was formally signed.
Commissioner De Gucht, along with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Stephan Harper said that the deal “was fully backed by all Member States of the European Union including Germany.” Therefore, it would be “very strange”, Mr De Gucht added, if Germany, being the EU’s largest economy and exporter, tried to block the agreement. At a joint conference in Ottawa, Canada also promised to remove the visas for Romanians and Bulgarians “as soon as possible”. In addition to the process of ratification that is about to begin, the text of the deal will now be translated into 23 languages, subsequently scrutinized by lawyers, signed next year, and should enter into force in 2016.