Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

© Patrick Seeger/Keystone
The free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) was negotiated behind closed doors from 2009 and signed in October 2016. Since then, it has been ratified by the European Parliament, and some parts have been implemented since April 2017. Before the full text can become law, it must still be ratified by the national parliaments of the EU member States.

CETA does away with any remaining tariffs as well as most of the non-tariff trade barriers between the EU and Canada. It also strengthens the protection of intellectual property. One particularly controversial aspect is the mechanism for protecting investments that allows companies to file court cases against a State through a court of arbitration (Investor State Dispute Settlement court), when national regulations have been modified against the companies’ interests. This mechanism implies a de facto limitation of the regulatory powers of States, and a strengthening of the powers of corporations, which is problematic.

The irreversible nature of the deregulation and privatisations that are implemented has also been strongly criticised by civil society. CETA is an innovation in the new generation of pluri-lateral free trade agreements and is considered to be a model for 21st century agreements.