Ministers set out CETA’s benefits for EU and France

Implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA) – Joint press conference given by M. Nicolas Hulot, Ministre d’Etat, Minister of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, M. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance, and M. Stéphane Travert, Minister of Agriculture and Food (excerpts)

Paris, 25 October 2017


THE SPOKESMAN – I think we need only take a brief look at the world as it is (…) to realize that it’s at European level that we’ll succeed in defending and guaranteeing the basic rights of our farmers, our small businesses and our fellow citizens. (…)

I won’t elaborate further; if you’ve got questions I’ll come back to them, but I think what the ministers with me on this stage are going to present to you is, precisely, how CETA will be monitored by mobilizing the European Commission. How we can ensure that a method, coherent action, complies with the commitments made by President Emmanuel Macron during the campaign, both on the method and the objectives. But those around me are going to present this to you. How this method and political coherence can allow us to safeguard everyone’s interests and also allow us to develop our economy and agriculture, how they can allow us to develop France in a strengthened Europe, in a powerful Europe, for which we have to set out a number of demands. (…)

M. LE DRIAN – At the Council of Ministers’ meeting, the government has just adopted an action plan on the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada, commonly called CETA.

Indeed let me remind you that, in accordance with the commitments the President made during the campaign, a committee of independent experts was put together in July 2017 and tasked with assessing the impact of CETA on the environment, climate and health. The committee delivered its report on 8 September. The work was conducted totally independently under the chairmanship of Mme Katheline Schubert, whom I want to thank here, along with all the members of her committee.

The experts concluded that the CETA text includes the necessary guarantees as regards protecting Europe’s right to regulate and to apply its own standards. This conclusion echoes the Constitutional Council’s decision, which, as you know, deemed the treaty to be in accordance with the constitution.

The experts also called for vigilance on the conditions for implementing the agreement and stated that further action could be taken on the climate. More generally, they called for better coordination between environmental policy and trade policy. They also emphasize the need to scrupulously take into account sensitive agricultural sectors in the trade negotiations.

It was on the basis of this vigilance requested by the Schubert Committee that a follow-up committee was set up, spearheaded by Ministers of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne and Brune Poirson, who brought together all those involved – be they NGOs, the various professional organizations concerned or members of parliament – to draw up an action plan, which the government validated today. This action plan indicates our desire to respond in a very concrete way to the points raised by the committee of experts. It includes a series of actions and initiatives which the government is going to take or raise with the Commission and its European partners, and Canada, in the coming months. With this plan, the government would like to ensure that CETA is implemented in an exemplary way; at the same time, it would like to prompt further climate action and raise the ambition of Europe’s trade policy. (…)

M. LE MAIRE – (…) A few additional points. (…) I just want to stress the economic advantages for our producers, for our industries, linked to concluding CETA and implementing this action plan. This action plan and this trade agreement will lead to the gradual elimination of customs duties and therefore boost the competitiveness of French and European businesses in Canada, where they’re already well established.

They’ll also enable us to obtain recognition for and protection of 173 European geographical indications, including 42 French protected geographical indications: for Bayonne ham, Marennes Oléron oysters, Puy lentils, Haute Provence essential oils, etc. Many products with protected designations of origin will find markets in Canada thanks to this agreement.

Finally, an absolutely essential point is that the agreement will enable us to improve French businesses’ access to procurement contracts, because for the first time not only Canada as a country but Canadian provinces, territories and municipalities will open up their calls for tender for procurement contracts to a foreign partner; I think this will offer our own businesses extremely positive trade prospects. (…)

We strongly believe France can defend its economic interests without giving in to the siren voices of protectionism. To defend our trade interests amid globalization, there’s a path between totally unbridled free trade and protectionism. That path is fair trade. It’s trade based on rules of strict reciprocity. (…) I’ve had the opportunity to tell all my foreign partners, and I had the opportunity to tell the IMF Annual Meeting last week, that no trade is possible without respect for the rules of reciprocity.

It’s clear that the environmental, health and social standards we impose on our producers must also be imposed on producers who want to come and trade or invest in France and Europe. Putting on my old hat [of agriculture minister], you can’t ask French beef producers not to use hormones to breed their animals and then, at the same time, let hormone-fed animals enter French territory. It’s unjust, it’s unfair and it’s not our idea of trade.

Let me add that the President and I have taken a number of decisions in terms of protecting French and European commercial interests. The strategic investments directive currently being negotiated is aimed precisely at protecting Europe against foreign investments in strategic areas.

The creation of a controlled industrial designation, which we want to work on, which would be the counterpart to the controlled agricultural designations of origin, is a step in exactly that direction. We’re working on this with our Italian partners. It’s a way of bringing French, Italian and European expertise and cultural identity to the fore.

Finally, I’ll broaden this out to include a subject which is close to our hearts but is part of the same vision. When we fight to tax the digital giants operating in France and Europe, it’s exactly the same approach: they’re all welcome in Europe and in France, but they must still pay the same taxes as European and French companies. (…)./.

Published on 30/10/2017

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