Nickel boss: ‘Economic benefits of CETA outweigh the criticism’

With CETA the EU can beat China in the race for raw material, says Nickel Institute President Tim Aiken. © Nickel Institute

The free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA) will provide European companies with long-term access to essential raw materials, Nickel Institute President Tim Aiken says, hoping to create more pro-business EU laws with CETA. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Tim Aiken is President of the Nickel Institute, the global association of the world’s primary nickel producers. Aiken took part in the EURACTIV Workshop “Europe+Canada”.  

He spoke with EURACTIV Germany’s Dario Sarmadi.

The CETA Free Trade Agreement between EU and Canada has been criticised especially in Germany and France because of the Institutional State Dispute Settlement clause. Do you think the clause should be removed?

The protection of investors is an important building block of the CETA Agreement, which provides both Canadian companies in Europe and European companies in Canada with a safeguard for their investments. Currently, it represents a hurdle for the debate within Europe. However I am convinced that the hurdle will be overcome given that the economic benefits of the CETA agreement for industry and consumers outweigh the criticism.

What opportunities does the CETA agreement offer to the raw materials industry?

CETA is highly important, both for Canada and Europe – and especially for Germany. The removal of trade tariffs will enable investments on both sides, which so far have been blocked due to ambiguities. CETA will provide more clarity and planning security to industry, which is desperately needed. For the development of modern technologies and the strengthening of traditional industry sectors in Europe, we need a secure access to raw materials. We are in competition with other regions of the world for those essential raw materials.

Which regions do you mean?

As an example, China, the fastest growing economy in the world, creates competitive advantages by bilateral agreements with resource rich countries. In parallel, mining and processing of raw materials within China is increasing. This scenario makes CETA necessary. The free trade agreement can strengthen the value added chains in Canada and Europe and promote their cooperation and competitiveness.

But the EU could also cooperate with China in the raw materials sector. Why do you push for such a transatlantic axis?

There has been a long history of a successful cooperation between Canada and Europe in the area of raw materials extraction and processing. Canadians also have a similar business culture to Europeans. Living standards are on a similar level. And supply and demand fit quite well.

Which raw materials that are available in Canada are of exceptional importance for Europe?

Canada is rich in many metallic raw materials which are critical for Europe, such as copper, nickel, gold, silver, cobalt, lead and zinc; but also minerals such as potash and raw materials for energy such as uranium and coal. Many European companies rely on Canadian enterprises, acknowledging their reliability.

In concrete terms: how can Canada and Europe benefits from each other? 

Canada and Europe lead in different parts of the value chain. Canadian companies are top players in mining and metallurgy – which means in the extraction and processing of raw materials. Moreover Canada is rich in resources. Germany, for example, has a strong industrial value added chain and an expertise in recycling. CETA bundles this knowhow and promotes a transfer of expertise and information. I hope that CETA will also create a framework for discussion, with the aim to re-define the regulatory framework in Europe.

Which changes do you suggest?

In principal we appreciate the existing raw materials strategies at EU and national level. They aim to secure a safe supply of raw materials. This is an important signal. However we see a number of target conflicts with the existing regulatory framework, which can endanger the safe and continuous supply of raw materials. The production, manufacturing and use of raw materials may be hampered or restricted by existing regulation. There is a risk of allocation of value added chains to areas outside the EU and the loss of jobs in Europe and Germany, if we do not address these target conflicts.

Which regulations are of specific concern? 

The metals industry has closely cooperated in the past with European authorities to collect data on its metals and their interaction with the environment and health. Risks are known and managed. We support measures against the use of substances where risks cannot be controlled. However we can see an increasing number of raw materials being restricted although not posing any risks – even raw materials which were identified as being critical for the future of the EU. An example is the authorisation process under the EU REACH regulation. This leads to a massive weakening of European and German industries.

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