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Expanding across the Atlantic?

Blogs October 7, 2016

I have said this before and I will say this again: Finns and Canadians get along well. And, it is not just the weather, love of cottages and ice hockey which unite us. In business, I have heard my Finnish clients say this repeatedly: it is easy doing business with Canadians. The feeling is mutual. Still, finding a market full of like-minded business partners remains just a very good start. The regulatory framework must also be on your side. This is where CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement)- the new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union - comes in.

While many have heard of TTIP, the US-EU trade agreement still under negotiations (and potentially jeopardized by the upcoming US election), few know of CETA. It is evaluated that CETA will increase EU output by about €12 billion a year. What will your share be? What could it mean for your business prospects in Canada? Have you considered that Canada could be your gateway to the North American market?

What change is CETA bringing for EU companies?

CETA is the first trade agreement between the EU and a major world economy. It is also said to be the most far-reaching bilateral trade agreement negotiated to date. Once implemented, it will:

  1. eliminate or cut tariffs in most cases, a saving in the hundreds of millions per year for EU companies;

  2. open the Canadian market for certain services and investment (e.g., maritime, environmental, telecom, financial services) for EU companies;

  3. provide for the mutual recognition of some professional qualifications (e.g., architects, accountants, engineers);

  4. facilitate the provision of after-sales services by helping EU firms to send equipment, machinery and specialists, making EU firms more competitive in the Canadian market;

  5. provide for a mutual acceptance of conformity assessment certificates for certain types of goods (e.g., electric, electronic, toys, measuring equipment);

  6. introduce a new investment court system to enhance investment protection rules and allow investor vs state claims. (This element of CETA is however facing some opposition, in particular for a potential provisional implementation);

  7. align the Canadian rules with those of the EU on the protection of certain intellectual property rights to create a level playing-field;

and last, but certainly not least:

  1. give EU firms access to Canadian public tenders (at a federal, provincial and municipal level). Canada has also agreed to set up a single procurement website to boost transparency and create a genuine access for EU firms on these tenders.

When will CETA be in force?

The text of the agreement – all 1598 pages of it – is finalised and hopefully will be signed on October 27, 2016 at the Canada-EU Leaders’ Summit. In the coming months, it will be translated in all EU official languages. To be fully implemented, it must however, not only be approved by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament but also ratified by the parliament of each EU country, a process expected to face some serious hurdles due, among others, to opposition from national anti-globalisation groups.

In the meantime, the European Commission and the Canadian authorities have proposed a provisional application of CETA, but the debate remains as to whether the Commission has the powers to provisionally apply such international agreement and to what extent.

Stay tuned as we will follow the developments on this subject. This could bring a myriad of new opportunities for your business!