Committee of experts in France reviews CETA

During his campaign, French President Macron made commitments to convene an expert group to review and assess the EU-Canada free trade agreement (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA for short). The experts from French universities engaged with business and civil  society throughout the summer. Transport & Environment was invited to discuss the impact on energy, international transport, climate, public policy development and democracy.

Started in 2008, and negotiated between the European Commission under Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and three different Trade Ministers of the Stephen Harper administration, CETA is one of the broadest bilateral trade initiatives ever negotiated by the EU - done in total secrecy.

The negotiating mandate, text offers, consolidated texts and meetings were conducted under a veil of undemocratic practices conducted by the previous Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. This has fundamentally undermined the legitimacy of the agreement in the minds of both European and Canadian citizens. In part, this is also due to the Harper government's terrible environmental credentials, responsible for cutting billions in federal spending on climate change and energy efficiency, and withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol.

The main conclusion of the French expert report, presented to President Macron, is that CETA lacks ambition. A rather scathing conclusion which is in stark contrast with the European Commission that promotes CETA as “The Gold Standard”, and template for future European agreements. Echoing the concerns of groups like T&E, the experts went on to state that while CETA may not bring about environmental chaos, it was, however, a disappointing missed opportunity. The agreement does nothing to tackle environmentally damaging subsidies such as fossil fuels. This is particularly important given the vast government support of tar sands.

Given the start of the negotiations, it is unsurprising that CETA does not include any reference to climate change or even the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. In light of this and having reviewed carefully the relevant chapters the experts echoed the conclusions of many environmental groups:

  • CETA only addresses commercial dimensions, with no provisions to limit trade in fossil fuels and the increase in CO2 emissions from international maritime and aviation transport induced by the increase in trade flows;

  • There are no provisions for incentives in the development and adoption of low-carbon technologies, no exclusion clause for measures to combat climate change in the Investment Court System (ICS) chapter;

  • There are no instruments to tackle climate change effectively;

  • The right to regulate on the environment and health is contained in principle, but without any provisions on the precautionary principle.

CETA does not reflect how Europe and Canada have changed in the last couple of years, notably both signatories to the Paris Climate agreement. CETA must be renegotiated to reflect the changes in priority for both regions.

Europe faces many challenges with regards to energy security, however the best way to address this is to continue to decarbonise European transport, reduce shipping and aviation emissions and shift towards renewable energy leading to a decrease in oil demand. In the meantime, worst offenders such as oil from tar sands should be avoided. Provisions made for sustainable development must include international agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement, and 21st century provisions that protect environmental measures from legal challenges, for instance by including a Clean Hands Clause. In the energy sector, it is not possible to reliably estimate the impact of CETA, and will not be for another decade. A coordinated approach, designed to secure high levels of protection of the right to regulate in the energy sector should be implemented, to ensure the long-term interest of the environment, governments and investors alike.

We maintain the view that CETA is not a gold standard for the environment, for citizens or for Europe.

T&E publications related to CETA

  1. CETA and the environment

  2. Joint analysis of CETA ICS

  3. Trade negotiations and the FQD

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Kristina Wittkopp's picture

Better Trade and Regulation Legal Analyst

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