Malmström is a new entry this year
During her time as the European Commissioner for Trade,
Cecilia Malmström has presided over the EU's side of the
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.
This kind of free trade agreement stands out as a reminder of
what globalisation was like before the protectionist era of US
President Donald Trump and Brexit.
CETA constitutes Canada's biggest bilateral trade initiative
since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into
force in 1994. The agreement removes duties on 98% of the goods
traded between Canada and the EU. Not only does this ease
market access for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, EU
companies will save almost $700 million a year thanks to
virtually eliminating tariffs on exports to Canada.
"Things are about to change for our exporters," Cecilia
Malmström said at the time. "The provisional entry into
force allows EU companies and citizens to start reaping the
benefits of this agreement right away. This is a positive
signal for the global economy, with the potential to boost
economic growth and create jobs."
Malmström has put great effort into getting agreement
on the CETA after a total of seven years of negotiation.
"CETA is a modern and progressive agreement, underlining our
commitment to free and fair trade based on values,"
Malmström said. "It helps us shape globalisation and the
rules that govern global commerce. Moreover, CETA underlines
our strong commitment to sustainable development and protects
the ability of our governments to regulate in the public
According to the European Commission, the EU exports
€53 billion ($63 billion) of goods and services to Canada
every year. This trade is linked to 865,000 EU jobs and
Canadian companies employ 221,000 workers in EU countries. The
expectation is that the new agreement will see trade expand by
20% thanks to the elimination of tariffs.
Given its scope, CETA was no less controversial than NAFTA
in some quarters. A common criticism is that these free trade
agreements ultimately drive down standards and eliminate
barriers for big business, while the little guy loses out.
CETA was particularly controversial in Belgium, where the
regional Walloon Parliament opposed the deal on the grounds
that it allowed multinationals to sue national governments. In
response, the Belgian government called upon the Court of
Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to rule on whether the
agreement's dispute resolution system was compatible with EU
This temporarily stalled the deal in its final stages. After
a great deal of haggling, CETA was eventually approved by all
28 EU member states on October 30 2016 and went on to pass
through the European Parliament the following February. CETA
came into provisional force on September 21 2017 pending
ratification by EU member states.
The CJEU ruled that the dispute resolution system of CETA
does affect the power of European courts, however, the
compatibility of the system with EU law could not be determined
by this case alone. But it did later rule that the deal cannot
just be ratified by the EU alone and that national parliaments
must have a say in the matter.
As a result, CETA has already been ratified by six countries
and the process will continue into 2018. Even with the delays,
there is more certainty about this agreement than what is
happening in many other places in the world.