Canada, European Union Sign The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

 

On September 26 2014, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union was signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. While the agreement has been in the works for several years, there’s still work ahead: namely, legal proofing and translation, before the ratification process can begin sometime in 2015.

This agreement is billed as “Canada’s most ambitious trade initiative, broader in scope and deeper in ambition than the historic North American Free Trade Agreement” [Source]. Besides the obvious historical and cultural connections with Europe, the EU is Canada’s 2nd largest trade and investment partner, right behind the United States. A joint Canada-EU study that was used to support the commencement of trade talks cited that a EU-Canada trade deal could potentially bring about a 20% increase in bilateral trade, resulting in a $12 billion annual increase to Canada’s economy [Source]. The expected benefits will manifest themselves in the trade of goods, services, as well as procurement. Find out more about the specifics of CETA here.

Gaining preferential access to the European Union, with its 28 member states, 500 million inhabitants and annual GDP of $18 trillion, is expected to create “jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for the benefit of all Canadians” [Source].

Where does culture fit in?

With any trade agreement, particularly ones as expansive and wide-reaching as CETA, there’s always a concern about how it will impact Canada’s ability to set its own cultural policies. In fact, this argument/criticism about trade agreements is so pervasive that it is actually addressed on the Government of Canada’s “Myths and Realities” page on CETA. Within this page, the Government responds that “the preservation and promotion of Canada’s cultural diversity is among the Government of Canada’s core objectives”, and offers that Canada will continue to meet these obligations under CETA.

 Within the consolidated CETA text, culture does indeed play a role. The pre-amble to the agreement sets the tone for how culture is being treated within the agreement:

  1. RECOGNIZING that the provisions of this Agreement preserve the right to regulate within their territories and resolving to preserve their flexibility to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as public health, safety, environment, public morals and the promotion and protection of cultural diversity;
  2. AFFIRMING their commitments as Parties to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and recognizing that states have the right to
    preserve, develop and implement their cultural policies, and to support their cultural industries for the purpose of strengthening the diversity of cultural expressions, and preserving their cultural identity, including through the use of regulatory measures and financial support.

These statements allude to retaining the signatories’ ability to set, develop and implement their own cultural policies, and the agreement actually contains explicit exemptions for culture in the following sectors: subsidies, investments, cross-border trade in services, domestic regulation and procurement.

 

What about copyright and intellectual property rights?

Chapter 22 of CETA also contains some provisions regarding intellectual property rights, and while most of the chapter is devoted to issues relating to the pharmaceutical industry, there is some important information on copyright. Essentially, the chapters on copyright are intended to be complementary to a whole host of international agreements that Canada is already a signatory to: the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IPR, Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, WIPO-WCT, WPPT and the Rome Convention. Thus, these provisions are consistent with Canada’s existing Copyright Act, and no modifications are expected.

For more information, please contact: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/september/tradoc_152806.pdf

 [If you’re interested in reading how Canada’s copyright reforms influenced the terms of CETA, Michael Geist has an excellent column about this over at: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/2014/08/canada-shaped-copyright-rules-eu-trade-deal/].