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Understanding everything about Ceta, this free trade agreement rejected by the Senate

Behind these four letters, initial of “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement”, or “Accord économique et commerce global” in French, hides a free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, negotiations of which began in 2009.

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Understanding everything about Ceta, this free trade agreement rejected by the Senate

Behind these four letters, initial of “Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement”, or “Accord économique et commerce global” in French, hides a free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, negotiations of which began in 2009.

In its 2,344 pages, this agreement “aims to eliminate almost all – more than 99% – of customs duties between the two blocs”, details the Ministry of Agriculture on its website. Ceta is not limited to removing customs duties. It must facilitate access to Canadian public markets by opening 30% of them to European companies, compared to 10% previously. At the same time, it “opens the Canadian services market” and facilitates European investments across the Atlantic. On the agricultural side, it also modifies the import quotas for Canadian agricultural products into the Union, to promote trade while protecting these sensitive sectors.

More than 90% of the provisions provided for by Ceta have already come into force since 2017. Trade between the EU and Canada has increased by around 50%. For its part, France exports more wine, cheese and perfume than before. In return, imports of minerals and rare metals from Canada have increased. “Ceta between the EU and Canada has made it possible to increase French exports to Canada by 33% in six years. If we take agriculture, the trade balance surpluses, that is to say the difference between exports and imports, are significantly increasing: up by almost 400 million euros in six years. said Franck Riester, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs during the Agricultural Show last February.

Only two chapters, which fall under the shared competence of the EU and national authorities, have not yet entered into force. They concern investments and the resolution of disputes between European and Canadian companies. For the application of these latest measures, the text requires ratification by each of the regional and national parliaments of the European Union. However, the Senate did not give the green light.

Ceta is strongly criticized, in particular by French breeders who report meat imports at cost prices much lower than theirs and with less strict methods than those to which they are subject. In any case, Canadian beef has not yet flooded into Europe: the EU imported 1,360 tonnes last year compared to 340 tonnes in 2016, and France less than 30 tonnes in 2023, a far cry from European beef exports.

Some environmental NGOs also denounce the lack of commitments against climate change in the agreement. “The DNA of the agreement is incompatible with the Paris agreements,” says Mathilde Dupré, co-director of the Veblen Institute and author of a critical assessment of Ceta in January. According to her, the treaty first made it possible to boost trade in polluting products such as vehicles and hydrocarbons. Already in 2017, a report by experts appointed by the French government pointed out the “lack of ambition” of the 2,300-page text, accompanied by “no binding commitment” on climate matters.

After this refusal by the Senate, the agreement will not be renegotiated. The text will be sent back to the National Assembly and could be definitively rejected by France if Paris completes the process. In July 2020, the government of Cyprus already rejected the ratification process, but the government never notified this to the European Commission, allowing the agreement to continue to apply. In the meantime, Ceta will still have to be applied. But the European Commission has no sanctioning jurisdiction. In fact, certain standards may therefore not be applied in France. Canada's only recourse would be to file a complaint with the WTO for non-compliance with the agreement.

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