Explaining the real benefits of CETA: an important role for business

Summary of the discussion with Daniel Costello, Canada's ambassador to the EU

The vote for CETA in the European Parliament opens a new chapter of closer relations between Canada and the EU. There is still a bumpy road ahead, however, with ratification of the agreement needed in all EU Member States. CETA is a progressive agreement for inclusive growth that brings substantial  benefits for SMEs. Business has an important role to play in promoting the agreement and providing real-life examples of its benefits. These were just some of the views expressed during the debate with Canada's ambassador to the European Union, Daniel Costello, which took place at the Employers' Group meeting on 22nd January 2017.

As Ambassador Costello pointed out, CETA has a strategic importance, enabling us to shape the future of globalised trade instead of following trends set by others. He outlined the state of play in the ratification of CETA, noting that provisional application of the agreement should be in force in the spring.

This would enable its benefits to be demonstrated to sceptics. A joint study had indicated an anticipated 23% growth in bilateral trade when the deal was fully in force. That was equal to EUR 26 billion a year, which would be translated into growth and jobs. SMEs in particular would benefit from the deal, mainly through support for regulatory cooperation, facilitation of trade procedures and opening up of public procurement.

Ambassador Costello stressed that CETA was a modern, inclusive trade agreement that was about sustainable growth for all – not about growth at any price. However, while free trade agreements generate growth, they do not distribute it: Governments need to monitor impacts and introduce the right policies to ensure fair distribution of these benefits. In the ambassador's view, civil society and the business community in particular have a crucial role to play in spreading a positive message about CETA. It is business that can tell the story of the concrete practical benefits and results stemming from provisional application and the creation of jobs and growth.

In the floor discussion, Employers' Group members raised a number of issues about CETA and free trade in general. Bernd Dittmann, a German member of the group, noted that: "The days when trade agreements were technical discussions are over; trade policy is now a political issue." He thought CETA was now the new gold standard for FTAs in terms of its transparency and breadth. It would trigger new global sustainability standards as well as social and environment standards.

Jonathan Peel, vice-president of the REX section (dealing with External Relations), pointed out that trade was under threat as never before. In his view, CETA was the most significant deal we had seen for a very long time and the first trade deal between two major industrialised parts of the world. He also emphasised the importance of investment protection and agricultural issues in trade agreements.

Jacek Krawczyk, president of the Employers' Group and of the EESC Transatlantic Follow-up Committee, noted that the Committee had made CETA its priority for 2017. He also proposed jointly organising a business round table for CETA. "It is fair to say that in the global context CETA has become almost symbolic as an opportunity for improving the case of international trade in general," he commented. It was time to show that CETA offered tremendous prospects for businesses, countries and societies!

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