Canada seizes op­por­tu­nity to take ad­van­tage of CETA

New group to pro­mote trade, in­vest­ment with EU, Julius Mel­nitzer writes.

Calgary Herald - - FINANCIAL POST -

Cana­dian com­pa­nies need to be much more ac­tive in Brus­sels in or­der to take full ad­van­tage of the Canada-Euro­pean Union Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic and Trade Agree­ment.

“CETA, for the first time, in­cludes a stand­alone chap­ter on reg­u­la­tory co-op­er­a­tion that pro­vides Cana­dian business with op­por­tu­ni­ties to get early in­sights into what gov­ern­ments may be plan­ning and do­ing,” said David Plun­kett, who served as Cana­dian am­bas­sador to the EU from 2011 to 2015 and was part of the CETA ne­go­ti­at­ing team.

“The dif­fi­culty is that the our pri­vate sec­tor — un­like the U.S., through the Amer­i­can Cham­ber of Com­merce — has had no full­time pres­ence in Brus­sels.”

That’s about to change with the for­ma­tion of the Canada EU Trade In­vest­ment Association, co-founded by Ot­tawa-based Plun­kett, who serves as chair­man; pres­i­dent Mark Camil­leri, a Cana­dian and EU lawyer at Camil­leri Law in Brus­sels with ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in these mar­kets; and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Julien Schi­et­te­catte, a trade con­sul­tant in Brus­sels.

CEUTIA is the first cross­sec­tor in­dus­try association in Brus­sels to fo­cus ex­clu­sively on pro­mot­ing Cana­dian and EU trade and in­vest­ment in­ter­ests. Ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site, CEUTIA is seiz­ing on CETA’s rat­i­fi­ca­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion to “fill a void in Europe” and as­sist the treaty’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion will pro­vide in­tel­li­gence to its mem­bers on the pro­mo­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of CETA, pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion and di­a­logue be­tween Cana­dian and EU busi­nesses, and fa­cil­i­tate cross-At­lantic business de­vel­op­ment.

Driv­ing all this is CETA’s chap­ter on reg­u­la­tory co-op­er­a­tion, which sets out an in­fra­struc­ture that in­cludes a num­ber of spe­cial­ized com­mit­tees fo­cused on iden­ti­fy­ing and re­duc­ing non-tar­iff or tech­ni­cal bar­ri­ers to trade.

“This in­sti­tu­tion­al­izes the op­por­tu­nity for Cana­dian business to take full ad­van­tage of CETA by hav­ing a role in EU de­ci­sion-mak­ing,” Camil­leri says.

His­tor­i­cally, the trade reg­u­la­tion process tends to be opaque. It’s fre­quently only af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion that com­pa­nies re­al­ize they will be un­able to sell their prod­ucts or pro­vide ser­vices.

The reg­u­la­tory co-op­er­a­tion pro­vi­sions of CETA, how­ever, seek to im­prove trans­parency by mak­ing spe­cific ref­er­ence to con­sul­ta­tion with the pri­vate sec­tor.

“By the time draft reg­u­la­tions are re­leased in the EU, they will have gone through an enor­mous amount of internal de­bate and con­sul­ta­tion with stake­hold­ers,” Plun­kett says. “The ear­lier we get our views into the sys­tem, the more likely it is that we can shape the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process so that at the very least the out­come is less un­ac­cept­able.”

The fact that Canada is viewed as a like-minded ju­ris­dic­tion by the EU is cause for op­ti­mism.

“We’re seen as a reg­u­la­tory model from which the EU can ben­e­fit,” Camil­leri said, cit­ing Canada’s long his­tory with for­eign in­vest­ment re­view and the EU’s re­cent in­ter­est in sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.

A full-time pres­ence in Brus­sels, Camil­leri be­lieves, will also help Cana­dian business keep its fin­ger on the pulse of the “Brus­sels bub­ble,” the city within the city where EU in­sti­tu­tions are lo­cated and where its staff work and play.

Quite apart from the de­ci­sion­mak­ing process, “there are a lot of in­for­mal op­por­tu­ni­ties that beckon,” Camil­leri said.

CEUTIA also hopes to build on the long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal frame­work shared by Canada and the EU for fa­cil­i­tat­ing com­mer­cial and eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the strong re­la­tion­ships that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and some pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments have de­vel­oped with var­i­ous EU in­sti­tu­tions.

“The idea be­hind the CEUTIA ini­tia­tive is to work closely with gov­ern­ment so we can have an ex­tra pair of eyes to see what’s go­ing on,” Plun­kett says. “Brus­sels is a com­pli­cated place — even more com­pli­cated than Wash­ing­ton — be­cause there are so many play­ers and so many wheels within wheels, and the more hands we have on deck the bet­ter off we’ll be.”

Still, Camil­leri be­lieves that it is the business com­mu­nity that should take the lead in ad­vo­cat­ing its own in­ter­ests.

“While gov­ern­ments can play a fa­cil­i­ta­tive role, business is in a bet­ter po­si­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate the plethora of reg­u­la­tory is­sues they face,” Camil­leri says.

“As well, re­ly­ing on gov­ern­ments to ad­vise of EU reg­u­la­tory is­sues cedes the ground for Cana­dian com­pet­i­tive­ness by taking a re­ac­tionary ap­proach to EU reg­u­la­tion.”

FRAN­COIS LENOIR/POOL PHOTO VIA AP FILES

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, cen­tre, signs CETA with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, right, in Brus­sels on Oct. 30, 2016. The new Canada EU Trade In­vest­ment Association will fos­ter co-op­er­a­tion and di­a­logue among EU and Cana­dian busi­nesses.

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