France sees the EU-Canada agreement as a ‘template’ for TTIP

Geographical indications are a highly sensitive issue in the TTIP debate. [Nacho/Flickr]

Paris would like to “copy-paste” key passages from the EU-Canada free trade agreement, concluded last week, particularly those relating to the arbitration court that is such a controversial issue in Europe. EURACTIV France reports.

Minister of State for Foreign Trade Matthias Fekl welcomed the fact that the French proposal for “an international investment court” was largely included in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), concluded on Monday (29 April) between the European Union and Canada.

EU, Canada change ISDS clause, get closer to ‘gold-plated trade deal’

The European Commission announced on Monday (29 February) that  it has agreed with the Canadian government to amend the controversial investment protection clause to pulverise the risk of defeat  on a ratification vote of the trade agreement in the European Parliament.

Fekl noted “with interest” the adoption of the main points of the French reform agenda for investment protection. These include “the preservation of the state’s right to regulate, the founding of a real public dispute settlement court and the establishment of an appeal mechanism”.

Paris now hopes to apply this model to other free trade deals, particularly the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently under negotiation between the EU and the United States.

Rapid progress

“We didn’t expect things to move so fast. The whole issue was smoothed out in ten days,” said an EU diplomat. The source also hailed the deal as a demonstration of political will by the new Canadian government.

“Now the Americans are the big challenge,” the diplomat added, referring to TTIP, a highly controversial free trade agreement.

Many obstacles still stand in the way of an agreement on TTIP, and they affect issues far beyond the dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) that has become a lightning rod for European concerns. According to the diplomat, regulatory convergence is one area in which there is still long way to go.

Commission proposes public court to settle investment disputes

The European Union on Wednesday (16 September) proposed a special court to resolve disputes arising from a huge trade deal with the United States, instead of the widely criticised tribunals Washington wants.

“When we say we see CETA as a template, we are not only referring to the mechanisms related to investment, but also to everything else – public markets, services and regulatory convergence.”

The European proposal for an international arbitration court, adopted in the agreement with Canada, “will serve as a template” for the agreement with the United States, the source said, because “it is universally applicable”, even if it would have to be adapted to different situations.

“The Americans have made it clear that we will not copy-paste [the international court] from the Canadian agreement. Now we know that the Americans do not like international courts of justice,” our source said. “So it will have to be adapted to fit the agreement in question.”

Negotiations between the US and the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) started in July 2013.

If the treaty is signed, it will affect almost 40% of world GDP. Commercial relations between the EU and the United States are already among the most intense in the world, with an exchange of goods and services worth €2 billion each day.

TTIP for dummies

In the wake of the global economic crisis and the deadlocked Doha round of international trade talks, the EU and the United States started negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which seeks to go beyond traditional trade deals and create a genuine transatlantic single market. But the road ahead is paved with hurdles.

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