REGIONAL TRADE AGREEMENTS

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Parties to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Between Canada and the EU (CETA) said their agreement, which was signed on 30 October 2016 and has been provisionally applied since 21 September 2017, raises the benchmark for agreements covering trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property and sustainable development. The EU said CETA was their most ambitious and progressive economic pact and sent a powerful signal to the world of the bloc's willingness to open markets and modernize trade rules. Canada said the agreement was a gold standard for them.

Both parties were represented by their respective negotiators and members welcomed the interactive exchange at the meeting. A number of members raised questions at the meeting on the allocation of Canada's tariff rate quotas as well as provisions in CETA covering rules of origin, geographical indications, and investment.

The factual presentation on this RTA as well as the document compiling members’ questions and answers are available here.

For the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 1 August 2017, parties to the Agreement noted their commitment to deepen relations and broaden business opportunities. The agreement covers trade in goods only, with a "rendezvous clause" allowing coverage to be expanded in 2019, including on trade in services, investment, or movement of professionals. Canada said the agreement represented a significant milestone in its bilateral ties with Ukraine. Ukraine said the agreement will allow for the harmonious development and expansion of trade and establishes a predictable framework for business activity.

A number of members commented on the broad coverage of the agreement, even though it only covered trade in goods, as it also includes chapters on e-commerce, environment, labour and transparency, among others. Several members raised questions at the meeting on agricultural tariffs, government procurement, and intellectual property provisions in the agreement.

The factual presentation on this RTA as well as the document compiling members’ questions and answers are available here.

As for the Costa Rica-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which covers trade in goods and services, parties to the Agreement cited opportunities for traders and consumers in each market. The trade agreement, which entered into force on 1 August 2016, will liberalize about 95% of the parties' tariffs lines by 2030. It also includes commitments on services, investment, government procurement, intellectual property and electronic commerce. With this agreement, Costa Rica now has a trade agreement in force with each of the Pacific Alliance countries, which is one of the conditions to accede to the Latin American trade bloc. Colombia said the agreement was a fundamental and natural step to consolidate trade relations in Latin America.  Costa Rica said the agreement was a modern trade tool that establishes a legal framework with clear and transparent rules.

A number of members raised questions about the parties' non-notified RTAs and rules of origin in relation to other regional trade agreements.

The factual presentation on this RTA as well as the document compiling members’ questions and answers are available here.

Members also considered the EU-San Marino Cooperation and Customs Union Agreement, which expands on San Marino's strong traditional ties with Italy, an EU member. The Agreement entered into force on 1 April 2002.

The factual presentation on this RTA as well as the document compiling members’ questions and answers are available here.

Other Committee Work

The Committee adopted a new template for members to notify changes to their existing RTAs. The notification format will be sent to the Committee on Trade and Development (CTD) and the Councils for Trade in Goods and Services for adoption.

The chair of the Committee, Ambassador Julian Braithwaite (United Kingdom), told members that 75 RTAs currently  in force have not been notified to the WTO as of 7 June. Meanwhile, factual presentations are pending for 34 RTAs involving WTO members only, and a further 36 RTAs are pending involving non-members, counting goods and services agreements separately. The EU asked about responses to the questions it had asked to the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) members in October 2017. LAIA members indicated that the CRTA was not the correct forum for the discussion of RTAs involving their members while the EU indicated it was not willing to discuss LAIA agreements exclusively in the CTD.

The chair said consultations were continuing with  those delegations where  factual consideration of their RTA had been delayed due to lack of comments or data from the parties involved. The WTO secretariat called on members to submit data and comments in a timely fashion to enable the committee to adhere to its work programme.

At the start of the meeting, the US, Canada and EU took the floor to request clarification on why the consideration of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Customs Union was not on the agenda. The chair said discussions had been taking place in the CTD yet he intended to speak with the CTD chair to see how to take the consideration of the agreement forward.

The chair further noted that, as no delegation had responded to his offer to hold consultations on implementing paragraph 28 of the Nairobi Ministerial Declaration from 2015, he would be dropping the item from the agenda. He noted however that discussions on the systemic relationship between RTAs and the multilateral trading system and improvements in the functioning of the CRTA were taking place under other agenda items, and he hoped the discussions would continue.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the CRTA is scheduled for 18 and 19 September.

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