France & Germany Want Changes To CETA

canada_ceta_ottawa_creditvince_alongi_flickrTrade negotiations between the EU and Canada concluded in October 2014, but France and Germany now want to make changes to the CETA agreement’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause. EurActiv France reports. 

While the free trade agreement between the EU and the US (TTIP) is still under negotiation, the deal between the EU and Canada is, at least in theory, all but wrapped up.

But French and German ministers now want to review the content of the Canadian agreement, in order to remove any potential difficulties from its dispute settlement mechanism, the ISDS clause. The clause is designed to protect investments by allowing recourse to arbitration tribunals in the case of conflicts between private companies and states.

The French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, travelled to Berlin on 21 January to discuss the issue with the German Minister for the Economy Sigmar Gabriel, and the State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs Matthias Machnig.

Joint declaration

In a joint declaration, the ministers of the EU’s two largest economies asked the European Commission, which steers trade negotiations on behalf of the 28 EU member states, to examine “all the options for modifying” the ISDS clause in the agreement with Canada.

This request from Paris and Berlin comes after the Commission published the results of a public consultation over the inclusion of the ISDS in the EU-US trade deal currently under negotiation, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). An overwhelming majority of the 150,000 responses opposed the mechanism.

If French and German opposition to the arbitration clause is nothing new, France and Germany are breaking new ground in asking for the negotiations with Canada to be reopened.

A source in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the development. He said, “What is important is that the Germans are for the first time accepting the link between the arbitration clauses in CETA and TTIP”.

Negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada began in May 2009. They were concluded in October 2013. The ratification will begin in the first semester of 2015.

Though it comes at a later stage in the process, the debate over arbitration in CETA is closely linked to that of TTIP. If the principle of arbitration tribunals is accepted in one agreement, it sets a precedent.<

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