Relations between the EU and Canada are now stronger than ever before, largely due to the new trading ties created by CETA. The implementation of this ambitious FTA has not even been fully completed, yet trade between the EU and Canada is already up by an average of 12%. In order to discuss this new relationship with our members, we were delighted to welcome Stéphane Lambert from the Mission of Canada to the EU.
CETA did not necessarily create a new relationship between the EU and Canada; their cooperation had already been strong for many years on non-trade matters, but CETA enabled these shared interests to be institutionalised, as well as adding structure and clarity. The construction of governance architecture and the removal of trade barriers has added a new layer to pre-existing relations, building trust and competency side by side. The implementation and ratification of the Agreement has been going well so far, but hasn’t been perfect. Reports of issues with the process in France and The Netherlands are not without substance, however such issues are small and all parties are hopeful that they can be easily solved through further explanation and clarification.
One of the new structures brought about by CETA is the formal mutual recognition of standards and regulations. The EU and Canada both have high but different standards in place against certain chemicals, materials, ingredients, etc. CETA has institutionalised a mutual recognition of both sets of regulations so as to ensure that all traders abide by those in place in the region they are exporting to. For example, beef farmers in Canada wishing to export their products to the EU must ensure they are compliant with EU standards, and vice-versa. This arrangement ensures that each party respects and recognises differences with no obligation to adopt them; equivalence is not the aim or ambition of CETA.
This “Canada-style” arrangement has also frequently been mentioned in discussions about Brexit, with the Agreement being held up as a potential example for the UK to follow in its future relationship with the EU. The issue of Brexit is an important one for Canada; the UK is the 2nd largest investment destination for Canadian business, and the 4th largest investor in Canada. Given these high levels of inter-dependency, Canada is committed to maintaining and building on their partnership with the UK whatever the outcome of UK-EU negotiations.
However, references in the UK to a “Canada-style” agreement with the EU are not helpful. Every FTA is unique to the parties involved, containing carefully constructed concessions on all sides, negotiated over many years and applicable to a particular moment in time and politics – they cannot simply be ‘copy and pasted’ from one third country to another. The timeline is particularly important to note; preliminary discussions about CETA began nine years before the Agreement was formally approved by the European Parliament, and the average EU FTA takes seven years to negotiate. It would require an unprecedented and monumental effort from all involved to agree a deal in less than five years, let alone one or two.
Counsellor and Head of Trade, Economic, and Science and Technology Policy | Mission of Canada to the EU
Stéphane has been a member of the Canadian Public Service for 16 years. In his current role as Counsellor and Head of Trade at the Mission of Canada to the European Union he oversees Canada’s trade framework with the European Union and manages Canada’s economic and science and technology ties with EU institutions. In his previous role, as Director General of Trade Strategy and Portfolio Coordination at Global Affairs Canada, Stéphane developed approaches to meet Canada’s goals for trade, including through the conception, implementation and tracking of trade promotion strategies, inclusive measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises succeed in international markets, and partnerships with other institutions and the private sector. Prior to joining Global Affairs Canada, Stephane worked at the Privy Council Office where he was responsible for industry, trade and regional development issues. Stéphane also held a number of executive positions at the Department of Finance Canada.