Slovenia and Canada commercial relations : reaching a new level with CETA

Remarks presented to the Business Leaders’ Club of
the American Chamber of Commerce in Slovenia
Ljubljana, Slovenia
March 20, 2018

Stéphane Dion
Ambassador of Canada to Germany and
Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe

Good afternoon, bonjour, Dober večer,

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special envoy to the European Union and Europe, and in the presence of our outstanding Ambassador to Slovenia, her Excellency Isabelle Poupart,I will explain, over the next several minutes, why I am so happy to address and be hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce’s Business Leaders’ Club.  Today will allow me to stress the point that we have a golden opportunity, Slovenia and Canada, to increase our commercial relations. This opportunity is created by CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union.

But first, let’s look at the numbers. Our track record on bilateral trade reveals a good base, but also opportunity for growth.  Bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Slovenia reached about 155 million Euros in 2017, an increase of almost 11% over 2016.  According to Eurostat, total bilateral trade in services between Slovenia and Canada amounted to 35 million euros in 2016.  Shining examples of our profitable ties include the recent sale of two patrol boats by Titan Boats of Sidney, British Columbia to the Slovenian Ministry of the Interior, Canadian investors in Slovenia such as Halcom, in ICT, and Magna Corporation in the automotive sector. Magna is in the midst of constructing a paint plant near Maribor that will employ 400 Slovenians; the largest Canadian investment in Slovenia! Slovenian investors in Canada such as Litostroj Power, a Ljubljana-based manufacturer of water turbine equipment for hydroelectric power and pumping stations, located in Bromont, Quebec.  Many Canadians enjoy their favourite winter sport on Elan skis manufactured near Bled. 

As I said, our commercial relations are good, but still modest for our two trading nations. There is huge room for improvement and great opportunities to be taken advantage of.

And now we have CETA to help us with just that, a trade agreement that entered into provisional application on September 21, 2017. Less than 7 months ago, prepared and preserved mixtures of vegetables exported from Slovenia to Canada were still subject to tariffs of up to 14.5%!   Now, 98% of all EU and Canadian tariffs are down to zero.

CETA also makes it easier for investors to use EU professionals in Canada and to use Canadian professionals in the EU, including here in Slovenia. Indeed, CETA establishes a framework to facilitate the establishment of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) for professional credentials and determines the general conditions and guidelines for the negotiation of profession-specific agreements.

Similarly, CETA’s temporary entry provisions make it easier for highly skilled professionals and business people, such as engineers and senior managers, to work in the EU and Canada. They expand on existing World Trade Organization (WTO) access rules by establishing a framework to facilitate temporary travel or relocation for selected categories of business persons, including short-term business visitors, investors, intra-company transferees, and professionals and technologists. As you see, CETA commits Canada and the EU to a range of measures designed to enhance the ability of our business persons to move across our borders.

Finally, you may be interested in the greater access you have to Canada’s estimated 116.7 billion euro government procurement market (2015), particularly opportunities at the sub-federal levels. Canada’s government procurement commitments in CETA are the most ambitious the EU has ever received from any negotiating partner.

CETA is a tool to increase jobs, strengthen economic relations and promote new economic opportunities for both Canadian and Slovenian businesses. It would be in the interests of our respective countries if ratified by all EU members, including Slovenia.

Canada is particularly keen to seize the opportunity that CETA offers for mutually fruitful commercial relationships with Slovenia. Sure, you are not a big economy like Germany or France, but you have a developed economy and an open one, export-oriented, part of the Eurozone, member of the OECD. Your economy was severely hurt by the Eurozone crisis, a few years ago, but it is now recovering and growing.

Canada has noticed a recent country report where the European Commission “congratulates Slovenia on a stronger, more stable economy” 1 The EU Commission points out that Slovenia is working towards a balanced growth path, that the labour market and the banking sector are strengthening, and that the public debt is decreasing.“Income inequality continued to decrease and remains among the lowest in the EU” 2 Of course, a lot remains to be done, nothing should be taken for granted and the EU Commission warns against major long-term challenges linked to the rapidly ageing population – one of the most pronounced ageing in Europe –  and what that will mean for the labour force and for the financial pressures on public pensions and health care.  

Another increasing burden for the Slovenian economy is the negative effect of climate change on your beautiful natural environment. According the Slovenian Environment Agency, the air temperature in Slovenia has risen by 2 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years, causing more heatwaves and heavy rains.. 3

But these challenges are global: Canada too has an ageing population, Canada too has its natural environment and its economy affected by climate change. The way to face these challenges is to work together. One of the essential tools that we both have is open and progressive trade. Beyond commercial relations, CETA and its political counterpart, the new Strategic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Canada,  provide an opportunity to develop our social, cultural, scientific ties in order to learn from each other, to share our best practices and technologies devoted to improving our health systems, to develop our capacity to respond to the social needs of our ageing populations, including immigration policies that will be part of the solution, to protect our environment and to decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.

Freer trade can facilitate the export of environmental technologies, as well as the exchanges of services and know-how, for reducing greenhouse gases.  CETA contains both a Trade and Environment Chapter and a Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter, which includes commitments to maintain high levels of environmental protection, as well as provisions to ensure that domestic environmental laws are effectively enforced and not weakened in favour of attracting trade and investment. 

CETA is more than a welcomed tool for our economic growth. It is also the opportunity to show our populations, and the world, that trade and societal progress can go hand-in-hand – there is no need to choose between the two. It is the way to pull together our ability to share best practices for social justice, environmental sustainability, labour rights, food safety, and so on. We know, in this room, that yielding to protectionist sentiments would be a serious mistake. We cannot afford to lose the benefits of open, rule-based trade – and with it, the ability to source efficiently-produced goods and services from all over the world, including Slovenia and Canada. These processes enhance competition, expand the use of valuable new technology and drive productivity, which in turn can improve consumers’ choices and our collective wealth.

All the great problems that we must face are global in scope: environmental degradation, the freshwater stress, human-induced climate change, migration flows – such challenges can only be resolved with strong global cooperation, in which trade plays a crucial role. We must not stand in the way of the increasingly fast flow of ideas and communication. 

I am convinced that in twenty, thirty years from now, the countries that will have been the most successful in providing for their citizens will not be the ones that have turned inward, shutting their doors to international trade. The most successful countries will be the ones that will have learned how to negotiate and implement well thought-out, bilateral or multinational agreements, which combine open trade and social progress.

There is another reason why Canada wants to develop its economic, social, scientific ties with Slovenia: you are a democracy. Your political system provides economic stability, security for foreign investments, and more than that: common values, a sharing of purposes. That is much appreciated at a time where the world’s rule base order and liberal democracies are under stress. 

We live in a difficult period globally, where democracies face a wave of authoritarianism, populism, isolationism and xenophobia. Democracy, human rights, freedom, justice, gender equality, a sustainable environment, progressive trade, these are the universal values and goals that our two nations share and embrace. So let’s work together, Slovenia and Canada, let’s strengthen our economic, cultural, scientific relationships, in order to progress, step by step, shoulder to shoulder, toward democracy and prosperity for all.


Footnotes

1 Commission Staff Working Document: Country Report Slovenia 2018 Including an In-Depth Review on the Prevention and Correction of Macroeconomic Imbalances, European Commission, March 7, 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2018-european-semester-country-report-slovenia-en.pdf.

2Ibid.

3 Total Slovenia News, Slovenia’s Changing Climate: Warmer, with More Heatwaves, March 5, 2018, http://www.total-slovenia-news.com/news/777-slovenia-s-changing-climate-warmer-with-more-heatwaves.

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