European Parliament Approves New Free Trade Agreement with Canada

By Melissa Miller Proctor

On February 15th, the European Parliament voted in favor of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union (EU) and Canada. European and Canadian companies will soon be afforded new trade benefits once the agreement formally goes into force. Specifically, this new agreement is intended to:

  • Eliminate 99% of customs duties on products traded between the EU and Canada on day one of the agreement’s entry into force—it is estimated that EU and Canadian firms will save over €500 million in duties annually;
  • Provide EU and Canadian companies with greater access to, and opportunities for bidding on, public procurement contracts in their territories;
  • Ensure the protection of 143 European agricultural and food products (“Geographic Indications”) distributed in the Canadian market;
  • Ensure greater access to new investment products by Canadian and EU firms in their respective territories;
  • Enhance opportunities for Canadian and EU firms to provide more services, such as a specialized maritime operations (e.g., dredging, moving empty containers, shipping certain cargo within Canada), environmental services, telecom and financial services, at both the federal and provincial levels;
  • Provide a framework for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU and Canada (e.g., architects, accountants, lawyers and engineers) which will make it easier for firms to move staff from one territory to another for temporary work assignments;
  • Provide greater opportunities to Canadian and EU firms for offering after-sales services and field technician visits to their respective territories;
  • Roll out a new mechanism for foreign investor-state dispute settlement processes; and,
  • Create a more level playing field between Canada and the EU in the area of Intellectual Property Rights (especially in the areas of the protection of technological measures and digital rights management), providing greater protection for pharma patents, and implementing more robust IPR enforcement measures.

The CETA was originally signed by the EU and Canada in October 2016. As noted above, the European Parliament gave its consent to the agreement on February 15th. The CETA will go into effect after Canada and the EU member states have ratified the agreement under their respective laws.