Statement by International Trade Minister and German Vice Chancellor on CETA

September 19, 2016 – Wolfsburg, Germany – Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade, and Sigmar Gabriel, German Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, today issued the following statement:

“We had a very useful and fruitful discussion on the Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

“Following our exchange, we will adhere to the following core principles, which have also been taken into account throughout the CETA negotiations:

  • Shaping globalization is our main common objective, to which modern trade agreements must contribute by living up to the values and aspirations we share when it comes to creating 21st-century trade policy.
  • Trade can contribute to growth and employment and brings opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • Fair trade needs predictable rules and standards. Further deepening of economic cooperation should go along with provisions promoting common values, such as the important role of government in our citizens’ lives, the relevance of trade unions or cultural diversity. We also stress that fair trade contributes to growth and employment.
  • We agree that a high level of protection for consumers, workers and the environment should be the guideline for any modern trade agreement.
  • It is imperative to modernize investment protection. Improving the transparency of the investment dispute-resolution process and affirming the right of national parliaments to regulate are of crucial importance.
  • Trade policy supportive of high standards must also respect the role of public services and refrain from imposing obligations to privatize public services. We believe strongly in the role of government to protect and defend social and environmental standards and reject a race to the bottom in this respect.
  • We acknowledge that trade policy is meant to serve, and be accepted by, society as a whole.

“It is the Government of Canada and its vision for a progressive trade agenda that paved the way for a modern agreement on fair trade between the EU and Canada−one that includes high standards for consumers, workers and the environment. Without the endeavour and the openness of the Government of Canada, CETA would not have been possible. Thanks to the common values the EU shares with Canada, we were also able to create a new system of investment protection that can serve as benchmark for international rules on investment in the future.

“In the light of the above, CETA is a huge achievement, providing for a modern and ambitious free trade agreement:

  • We are convinced that CETA will improve free and fair trade between the EU and Canada.
  • CETA sets a new global standard for sustainability chapters in trade agreements.
  • CETA will abolish the existing private arbitration tribunals and establish a court system based on the rule of law. The procedural changes create a transparent, independent and objective system for judging these disputes that includes an appeal mechanism.
  • CETA removes barriers to trade while ensuring a high level of protection for consumers, workers and the environment alike.
  • CETA is to the benefit of SMEs, consumers, workers and citizens alike.

“Concerning CETA, we are aware that some provisions in particular are still subject to intense public debate. Thus we entered into a detailed discussion to achieve a common understanding on how to address these issues during the ongoing process before CETA enters into force.

“In this context, we have heard the concerns expressed by the German Trade Union Federation and the Canadian Labour Congress, which we deem an important contribution to attaining clarifications on, in particular, investment protection, workers’ rights and public services, as well as public procurement and the precautionary principle.

  • The provisions on investment protection in CETA abolish the existing private arbitration tribunals and establish an investment court based on the rule of law. This is a groundbreaking improvement, since the new system provides for precise definitions while fully respecting parliaments’ right to regulate. We agreed, for example, that independent judges nominated by the parties to CETA are crucial and that implementing regulations must make this system absolutely watertight.
  • The sustainability chapter in CETA already provides for comprehensive rules to protect workers’ rights. We believe it is important that the International Labour Organization’s (ILO’s) core labour standards are fully ratified and applied. Since the Canadian government has already ratified one of the two remaining ILO standards and is working towards ratifying the outstanding one, we stressed our common interest in resuming the outstanding ratification process before CETA enters into force. We also looked into the dispute settlement provisions in the sustainability chapter, and we agreed to support efforts to assess whether further improvements are advisable.
  • Protecting the high quality of public services is of the utmost importance and thus foreseen in CETA. We are convinced that the provisions of CETA cover the sensitivities, but we fully support that existing rules and reservations in CETA are being clarified to underscore that municipalities can take such services back into their own hands.
  • We also believe that the provisions on public procurement in CETA should respect the parties’ rights to include labour and social criteria in their procurement procedures and would appreciate a clarification in this respect.
  • We agree and remain committed to the obligations that we have undertaken with respect to precaution on international agreements such as the World Trade Organization agreements and international environmental agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“We support the endeavour of the Canadian government and the European Commission to agree on further clarifications regarding these important areas of the agreement prior to the European Council’s resolutions on CETA, the signing of the agreement in October and the start of the parliamentary ratification process. It is our common understanding that such further clarifications on the sensitive issues mentioned would support this process, and we are committed to issuing a declaration with legal status between Canada and the EU Commission.”


Alex Lawrence
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of International Trade

Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
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