A focus on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)


The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been provisionally applied by the European Union and Canada since 21 September 2017. In France, the application of the EU-Canada CETA was the subject of several consultations and debates with civil society and members of parliament. The French CETA ratification process starts on 3 July 2019. Here is a review of a few key points of the agreement.

Schedule: where are we up to?

The EU-Canada Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed on 30 October 2016 and approved by the European Parliament on 15 February 2017. It was approved by the Canadian Parliament on 11 May 2017. In its decision of 31 July 2017, the Constitutional Council decided that this agreement complied with the French Constitution. The Agreement has been provisionally applied by the European Union and Canada since 21 September 2017.

Its provisional entry into force on 21 September 2017 concerns provisions under which the European Union has exclusive competence and does not include provisions on the protection of investments and the mechanism to settle disputes between investors and States. As it is a mixed agreement, its full entry into force will not happen until all of the national ratification procedures have been completed. In France, this process starts on 3 July 2019 when the bill moves into the Council of Ministers before being submitted to the Senate and the National Assembly. The National Assembly is scheduled to examine the bill during its plenary assembly on 17 July 2019. The government’s aim is for the bill to be ratified before the end of 2019.

An Inter-ministerial Action Plan to guarantee perfect implementation of the CETA

At the request of the President of the French Republic, an independent scientific commission was tasked with assessing the expected impact of this Agreement on the environment, climate and health. To follow up, the Government adopted an action plan at the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 25 October 2017 relating to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA). This action plan was put forward by four ministers and is focused on three areas:

1. Perfect implementation of the CETA to ensure that French and European health and environmental standards are applied and preserved, and to ensure that the effects of the CETA are rigorously monitored in a transparent manner;

2. Actions in addition to the CETA to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation on environmental and climate issues.

3. Proposals for European trade policy to improve how sustainable development issues are addressed in European Union trade agreements.

A table for monitoring the action plan, which is regularly updated and published, reports on actions undertaken under the plan. In keeping with Minister of State Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne’s commitment, this table takes stock of action that has been undertaken by the Government since the CETA action plan was adopted.

The benefits of the CETA

  • Commercial opportunities for French businesses

CETA will promote trade between the European Union and Canada generating many opportunities for exports benefiting French companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises and intermediate-sized enterprises. It will provide better access to the Canadian market, particularly public procurement and the services market. It will also facilitate exports of French produce to Canada: agricultural and agrifood exports (particularly wine and spirits) and industrial exports thanks to the gradual elimination of customs duties. Lastly, it will facilitate and secure investments of French companies in Canada,

The CETA will also:

  • provide better protection of intellectual property, particularly for pharmaceutical patents;
  • enable European professionals to work more easily in Canada with the mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
Between 2017 and 2019, French exports to Canada increased by 6.6%. Main industries: agrifood (up 8%, including 20% dairy products), chemical and pharmaceutical (up 13%).
  • Protecting geographical indications

European geographical indications are an asset for French and European agriculture. France exports such products and there is high demand abroad, particularly in Canada. With CETA, 143 European geographical indications, including 42 French geographical indications, will receive maximum protection in Canada.

  • An independent dispute resolution mechanism

CETA marks the end of the private dispute resolution mechanism used until now in many international treaties.

To examine disputes between investors and States, the CETA (Chapter 8) establishes a form of international tribunal made up of members appointed by States, independent of any influence of private interests and subject to a strict code of ethics. Decisions made by these judges will be regulated by a joint interpretation mechanism and shared interpretation notices to prevent any risk of dispute over the right to regulate. This new model was validated by the French Constitutional Council (July 2017) and by the Court of Justice of the European Union (April 2019).

What the CETA will not allow

  • Failure to comply with environmental standards and the Paris Agreement

The CETA explicitly prevents the Parties, including Canada and France, from lowering their environmental standards with the aim of boosting trade and investment. The CETA also obliges Canada and the European Union to comply with multilateral environmental agreements, including the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was not yet ratified at the time when CETA negotiations were finalized in 2014. However, explicit references to the Paris Agreement were then included in the CETA joint interpretative instrument signed by Canada and the European Union in October 2016, which is legally binding, and in a decision of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) of the Canada-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement in September 2018.
  • Importing products into France that are prohibited from the European market

The CETA respects European legislation which remains unchanged.
It will be impossible to import products which are prohibited from the European market. Meat that is hormone treated or fed on GMOs will continue to be banned, and Canadian beef may not be imported unless it complies with European standards.

Health and phytosanitary standards fully apply and health checks are carried out at every stage: when products leave the country, upon arrival at the border and directly on the national market. The EU has also implemented an early warning system in case of doubt.

Updated: July 2019