France "delighted" about EU trade deal with Canada
European Union – Trade treaty with Canada – Reply given by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, to a question in the Senate
Paris, 27 October 2016
We’re delighted that the agreement which has just been reached in Belgium enables us to overcome the deadlock on CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]. A meeting will be held with the 28 member states’ representatives this afternoon which will enable that treaty to be signed.
We’re delighted about it, because France believes that, after many years of negotiations, we’ve reached a good agreement with Canada. CETA is a positive, balanced and regulated agreement. So we welcome the fact that it can be signed.
The recognition of 42 of our geographical indications, the safeguards for social and environmental standards, the protection of public services, the mechanism for settling disputes under public scrutiny – all these feature in the agreement, as we wished.
Likewise, because we share strong common values with Canada, all our red lines have been respected. So on the cultural exception, public services, the precautionary principle and the safeguarding of our food system, the guarantees feature in the agreement.
We’ve also agreed with Canada to establish the first public Investment Court, which puts an end to abuses of private arbitration – the notorious ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement].
All these issues were also raised by the parliament in Wallonia, and so answers have been given to them. This makes it possible for the Walloon reservations – on agriculture, public services and the right to regulate the dispute-settlement mechanism – to be overcome and for Belgium to approve the signature of the treaty.
What’s happening with CETA demonstrates that parliaments must be fully, closely involved in the negotiation and preparation of trade agreements.
France is defending a very important position, in particular regarding another agreement currently under discussion with the United States. On these trade agreement issues, the substance is more important than the timetable.
Such agreements must be negotiated more transparently. They must be based on reciprocity, offer every guarantee of compliance with environmental and social standards, and not undermine the right of states to regulate, otherwise they won’t be supported by parliaments.
We think good trade agreements are possible. It’s in the European Union’s interest to negotiate them. But it must do this while making strong demands, because that’s how it can contribute to a globalization that is better regulated and better accepted. That’s Europe’s role: to champion our commercial interests and promote regulation within globalization./.