During the November Civil Society Summit on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Ottawa, detailed discussions along the key themes of Trade and Sustainable Development, Trade and Labour, and Trade and Environment were deliberated. At the core of the discussions, stakeholders and participants from both Canada and the EU Civil Society pushed forward a pro trade agenda incorporating inclusive, sustainable and equitable norms in the CETA.
The CETA landmark agreement was praised for the unique opportunity it presented to show the world how trade agreements could incorporate aspects of non-traditional trade negotiations like on labour and other social reform clauses. At the onset, it was acknowledged that, as like-minded countries with similar standards, values and commonalities, discussions would be centered on enhancing bilateral cooperation and sharing experiences of both parties, but the discussions also dwelled into how to uphold and enforce similar standards in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Third Parties.
Canada and the EU’s Domestic Advisory Groups (DAG) provided presentations along the thematic areas. Under the Trade and Sustainable Development theme, it was reported that there was no gender chapter in CETA, but gender was provided for in the fundamental principle of non-discrimination. This provision specified the basis for a joint recommendation and Action Plan to support women entrepreneurs in their capacity to trade. The DAG presentations acknowledged work on gender and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), emphasizing the role that SMEs play in CETA’s implementation. They also highlighted the findings of the International Trade Centre (ITC) study which showed that SMEs did not face trade barriers but only trade challenges including access to information, access to networks and the liability as a small company to engage in international trade.
The progress made on trade and gender was detailed including the various outreach and advocacy workshops and missions involving policy makers and women entrepreneurs, the regular communications between Canada and the EU teams, and the good stakeholder engagement from Civil Society. Experience sharing workshops have been undertaken with lots of lessons and best practices shared on policy and women’s participation in trade, as well as gender disaggregated data and the FTA’s assessment impact. More importantly, through these sessions, it was further confirmed that Canada and the EU share the same values on gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Going forward, gender was prioritized by both governments as an area to focus on, as a crosscutting issue within the different thematic areas like labour and environment. Discussions will also be focused on how to mutually take forward gender equality, empowering women and financing women to grow their businesses while taking advantage of CETA.
The Summit concluded on a positive note, calling for the proper implementation of CETA in upholding and promoting the values shared by the EU and Canada, while highlighting the importance of trade as a key driver to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The unprecedented success with CETA compared to other FTAs and the increased trade between the EU and Canada were also acknowledged. It was agreed to have ongoing dialogue about mainstreaming gender as a crosscutting issue. This presented drive and momentum to work collaboratively, and a great opportunity to showcase the work and progress made, as well as to share the knowledge with other countries.