On March 23rd, 2017 Glendon Campus, York University hosted its third Glendon Global Debates titled “CETA: A New Framework for International Trade or the Last of Its Kind?” The event was organised jointly by the Glendon School of International Affairs, the Canadian International Council as well as EU Consulates in Toronto. This debate stood as part of a series of EU Talks organised by the Consul Generals of EU countries in Toronto in collaboration with academic institutions to discuss important and relevant current issues.

It was a crowded room that eagerly received our five distinguished panelists, the moderator Derek DeCloet an Executive Editor at The Globe and Mail and Editor, Report on Business, the director od the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, Annie Demirjian as well as Hanan El Khatib, Consul General of Malta and Chair of the EU Presidency. Ms. El Khatib introduced CETA as a “living agreement,” one that will not go out of date but remain instead progressive as it will strengthen workers’ rights and protect the environment between Canada and the European Union. According to her, CETA would prove to be fundamentally rooted in common values shared by both Canada and its second biggest trade partner the EU, based on collaboration and respect above anything else; a model for future trade agreements. This sentiment was echoed by Mr. Stewart Wheeler the Assistant Deputy Minister of International Relations and Chief of Protocol for the Province of Ontario and Mr. David Usher Director General, Trade Negotiations, Department of Foreign Affairs and representative of the Federal Government who both expressed that CETA would also prove to be a significant opportunity to expand, diversify and maximize the overall Canadian economy.

The first panelist, Ambassador of France in Canada, Mr. Nicolas Chapuis also proved to be optimistic about the future of CETA. He claimed that this trade agreement, by removing tariff barriers would be greatly profitable and a “win-win-win” for all parties involved: the states, the businesses as well as the affected citizens. With a not-so-subtle-wink at our Southern Neighbours, he pressed that CETA was not based on The Art of the Deal but instead shared values between progressive and developed countries. He added, however, that for CETA to be successful, Canadian provinces and territories would need to ratify their internal trade mechanisms to allow free movement of European companies across our internal borders in order to be compliant with the agreement.

Ms. Candace Sider, our second panelist and Vice President of Regulatory Affairs in North America for Livingston International, agreed with Mr. Chapuis that CETA would most likely prove to be the first of many similar trade deals. After exposing at length the significant differences between CETA and the current NAFTA agreement, she encouraged all Canadian companies to be proactive in their internalisation of CETA requirements to maintain a competitive edge over their more passive competitors. She also specified that profits should affect the middle class first.

Following Ms. Sider, Mr. Istvan Mikola the Minister of State for Security Policy and International Cooperation of Hungary spoke. He described at length the potential benefits of free trade on countries with small populations and limited natural resources like Hungary. While clearly in support of CETA, a deal he called a “landmark trade agreement,” he also stressed the importance respecting the national sensibilities when embracing the agreement.

As for Mr. Jakob Von Weizsäcker a Member of the European Parliament for Thuringia in Germany, he too spoke positively of the future of the CETA agreement. To him, CETA is a mean to promote not only free trade amongst the involved parties but also fair trade, saying that there is no point in having one without the other. He added that to do so, there would be need to maintain the democratic mechanisms in these multilateral agreements in place to ensure the viability of the duality between free and fair in an era of globalisation. He, alike Mr. Chapuis, spoke of the Trump administration, saying that its populist tendencies were a game changer for CETA as it became more necessary than before to show the rest of the world that in these challenging and divisive times the European Union was willing to act in unison with Canada and hopefully the rest of the world.

Our fifth and final panelist, Ms. Angella MacEwen, a Senior Economist at the Canadian Labour Congress was the dissident voice of the evening. She exclaimed that CETA was not as fair or democratic as the other speakers had let on, especially the new dispute settlement court. In fact, Ms. MacEwen warned Canadians to proceed carefully when adopting CETA, saying that an increase in signed trade deals does not directly equate to an increase in trade, and that Canadians could stand to lose a lot without the right protectionist measures in place. Instead, she suggested that civil society and labour unions be consulted before, after and during the elaboration of any trade agreements, in a way that would emphasize not only corporate right in Canada but also corporate responsibility.

By: Claude Beaupre, Student of Master’s in Public and International Affairs.