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Report from the Fourth CETA Civil Society Forum

February 7 and 8, 2022, by videoconference

Joint Report


The Fourth Civil Society Forum (CSF) was hosted by Canada, and due to pandemic restrictions, took place via videoconference on February 7 and 8, 2022, with more than 150 participants from across the EU and Canada, including businesses, environmental and labour organizations, civil society, academia as well as Indigenous representatives from Canada.

Summary of Session I: Trade and Environment / Trade and Climate Change

During this session, Canadian and EU officials discussed the urgency of the environmental and climate crisis worldwide and the need to enact ambitious policies within trade agreements to achieve growth consistent with the Paris Agreement objectives. Both Parties also expressed gratitude towards significant ongoing collaboration on key issues of common interest, including biodiversity, plastic pollution and circular economy, energy transition and Net-Zero objectives. For its part, Canada also highlighted its Notice of Opportunity for new members on the Canadian Environment Domestic Advisory Group  (CEDAG). A discussion with civil society followed, where participants highlighted the importance of interlinkages between sectors in the context of trade, including on deforestation, sustainable food systems, energy transition and animal welfare. Participants also raised the importance of using trade agreements as a tool to leverage environment and climate goals and other policy goals in order to increase supply chain resiliency. With regards to the CETA Recommendation on Climate Action and the Paris Agreement, work continues in implementing the 2022-2023 TSD Committee joint work plan. In particular, following a successful second CleanTech Workshop in March 2021, Canada will also work with the EU to host a CleanTech Summit later in 2022.

Summary of Session II: Canada-EU Cooperation on Labour

Officials from both Canada and the EU spoke to the importance of continued cooperation under the CETA Labour Chapter in the context of the growing vulnerability of workers globally, in part due to the impact of the pandemic on labour. Canadian and EU officials highlighted, in particular the issues of forced labour and child labour in global supply chains, and how decent work can be advanced by putting forward complementary economic, social, trade and human rights policy interventions, and further cooperation and coordination bilaterally and multilaterally. Interventions by civil society pointed to the need to hear from government on efforts to ensure a sustainable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the importance of social dialogue and recognition on the intersection of labour, gender, and environment in the advancement of just transition. The parties also discussed joint efforts to promote the ratification of International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions.

Summary of session III - Developments in the field of Trade and Sustainable Development, Trade and Labour and Trade and Environment – Policy, Implementation, Enforcement

During this session, Canada delivered a presentation on its Inclusive Approach to Trade, highlighting recent successes such as the addition of inclusive provisions and chapters in its most recent FTAs, its work alongside Chile, Mexico and New Zealand under the Global Trade and Gender Arrangement (GTAGA) with the Inclusive Trade Action Group (ITAG), Canada’s recent endorsement of the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) alongside Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan and efforts to advance inclusive trade in multilateral fora. Canada’s Inclusive Approach to Trade focuses on historically underrepresented groups in trade (SMEs, women, and Indigenous peoples) achieved through conducting a comprehensive Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) of Canada’s trade agreements.

The EU’s presentation outlined the new trade policy adopted last February, which aims to build a new consensus for the medium term response to recent global challenges while pursuing a more sustainable strategy. They re-enforced their commitment to rules-based trade and cooperation with like-minded partners amid heightening geopolitical tensions, as well as the need to promote the green and digital transformation, as set out in the EU’s Green Deal. The EU celebrated the rapid growth and reach of the 2018 15-point Action Plan on TSD which has resulted in 11 agreements, 19 partners and more ratifications to come. Lastly, regarding the early review of the effective enforceability of CETA’s TSD chapters, it was noted that the EU was waiting for the release of their TSD study on February 10th to determine its approach moving forward, while Canada remains committed to enforceability via fines or sanctions. The Parties will resume discussions on the early review following the EU’s assessment of its TSD study.

Summary of session IV: CETA recommendations on SMEs and Trade and Gender

For this session, Canada’s Chief Economist provided a presentation on trade performance of Canadian SMEs exporters under CETA. The data showed that Canada-EU trade in goods has outperformed other trade relationships for both of the Parties. The use of CETA preferential tariffs for exports has steadily risen since provisional application of the Agreement, with Canadian exports to the EU growing from 52% in 2018 to 57% in 2020 and EU exports to Canada rising from 38% in 2018 to 56% in 2020. The number of Canadian SME exporters to the EU has also grown by 6.7% under CETA, or 16.8% in terms of value, with significant increase of SME exports to Greece, Romania and Ireland, while many EU Member State markets offer opportunities for further growth. However, female-owned SMEs remain underrepresented among exporting SMEs, as they only account for 4.5% (2019) of the total share of Canadians that export to the EU. The EU provided an update on work completed under the CETA SME recommendation, highlighting its Access2 Markets portal (launched in October 2020 and available to Canadian SMEs), a recent roundtable on SMEs that coincided with CETA’s 4th anniversary, and Canada’s virtual Service Sector SME workshop on accessing EU markets in December 2021. Moving forward, the Parties will continue to implement the Recommendation’s CETA SME Action Plan.

On progress on implementing the CETA Trade and Gender Recommendation, Canada affirmed that more than 30 activities have taken place under the recommendation, including six in the past year. Canadian officials flagged the upcoming Canada-EU activity on promoting women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers scheduled for March. The Parties also committed to refreshing the current work plan on trade and gender. Canada indicated that it published 12 CETA trade and gender infographics in 2021, which show how Canadian women workers and business owners are benefiting from CETA. These infographicsFootnote 1 are to serve as a baseline on how the benefits of CETA are being shared and will be updated every five years.

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