Gema Boiza. Journalist. @GemaBoiza
The European Union and Canada are putting the finishing touches on a new trade agreement, which will replace the one approved in 1976 which is still in force today. The goal is to bolster exports by both parties, especially of agri-food products.
While Canada expects to quadruple beef exports to the EU to 65,000 tons per year and increase pork exports from 6,000 to 80,000 tons annually, the EU believes the new agreement will support its exports of cheese, wine, fish products and alcoholic beverages.
Specifically, the European Commission is working to convince the Canadian government to double the European cheese quota permitted,with no tariffs, with a view to boosting imports from 20,000 to 37,000 tons per year.
To achieve this goal, the European Commission and the Canadian government have been in talks for five years, although the desire to update their trade agreement dates back considerably longer. Negotiations led to an agreement in 1997, which favored closer cooperation between the EU and Canadian Customs.
Both parties also signed a veterinary agreement in 1999, which improved the bilateral exchange of live animals. Years later, on March 18th 2004, leaders from Canada and the EC—led by its current president, José María Durao Barroso—adopted a new framework for designing an updated agreement to reinforce trade relations and investment.
Good will over the years
Both powers operated under that framework until 2006, when Canada and the EU decided to halt negotiations and start another, more ambitious round of talks.This objective was achieved three years later. In May 2009, the European Commission and the Canadian government signed a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
This should also ensure better protection of geographic indications for food products, so that when the new agreement enters into force, foods can be sold in Canada with the same geographic indications used in the EU.
This issue is not yet resolved. The two parties have met thirteen times between 2009 and October 2012. Their most recent meeting was this past February, when the Canadian government organized an event with around 20 ambassadors from member states in Canada to accelerate the signature of the new agreement.
However, the pact remains unsigned and there is every indication that there will be no changes in this regard until the second half of 2014. At the moment, in European Parliament, recent voting shows that a small number of Euro MPs are against the new trade agreement with Canada. This may slow its entry into force or lead to changes in the pact.
A total of 111 Euro PMs have voted against the agreement, 509 have voted in favor, and just 39 have abstained. Despite these numbers, European Parliament has still not received the final text of the agreement, which will have to be approved by that body, the Council of the European Union and the Canadian government.