April 26, 2018

Strengthening Ties Through A Progressive Trade Agenda

By  H.E. Mrs. Sabine Nölke, Ambassador of Canada to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

This is an exciting time to be a Canadian Ambassador in Europe! In February, the European Parliament voted to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada – an important milestone in efforts to move forward on the next chapter in our relationship, particularly our trading relationship. Canada’s ratification is imminent, and will result in an immediate entry into force of almost 90% of CETA’s provisions.

Some might argue that CETA runs against certain currents in international relations and traditionally open societies, at a time when retrenchment seems to be on the rise; I am, after all, writing this on the day the United Kingdom triggered its exit from the European Union. But we Canadians are optimistic that we are on the right path, and we know that our Dutch and European partners agree.

CETA will usher in a new standard for doing trade, and could serve as a model for reinvigorated and renewed trading relationship the world over. At the heart of its progressive approach is the acknowledgement that trading relationships and rules that not only stimulate economic growth, but put people first, protect the environment and strengthen labour standards, are more sustainable and better for everyone – for business, consumers and workers.

We listened closely to concerns – and acted on them. As a result, CETA expressly protects states’ legitimate policy objectives and ability to regulate in the areas of public health, safety, environment, public morals and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity. The Agreement also recognizes a basic truth, namely that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the levels of protection afforded in labour laws and standards.

This modern, forward-looking agreement reflects a truly progressive trade agenda, one that protects the ability of societies to promote the public good. That said, it also helps business – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises – grow and create jobs, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Immediately upon entry into force, CETA will guarantee duty-free access for almost all originating goods traded between Canada and the EU. The elimination of tariffs will benefit exporters, importers, and ultimately consumers, who will enjoy more choices and lower costs for a variety of products and services – including such delicacies as Canadian beef (absolutely hormone-free), salmon and lobster. Canadians, in turn, will get to enjoy, among other things, greater availability of Dutch cheeses (Gouda and Edam have their geographical indication protected!) and flowers.

Canadians and the Dutch are natural partners in the areas of green technology, clean energy and innovation; our young entrepreneurs will find the doors open to joint endeavours and the development of new ideas.

But as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted during his remarks to the European Parliament, Canada’s partnership with the EU isn’t just about trade, imports and exports, dollars in and Euros out. It’s about making people’s lives better, in concert with like-minded partners. Canada and the Netherlands, in particular, have a long history of working together to advance a shared vision of a more equal, just and open society. Our partnership is founded on a common history and common values, mutual trust and commitment to fundamental democratic principles – all of which form the context for our desire to expand the trading relationship.

For those reasons, CETA goes hand in hand with a new Canada-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), which reaffirms a shared commitment to the principles and values of open economies and societies. The SPA lays out the strategic direction for stronger future collaboration in important areas such as energy; environment and climate change; migration and peaceful pluralism; counter-terrorism; international peace and security; and effective multilateralism.

We cannot pretend that we can reverse the tide of globalisation, as some would have it; history moves forward, not backwards. But together, we can shape globalisation in the interest of our people into a positive, progressive force for the benefit of all.


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