Christophe Bondy’s Advice to UK Policymakers

23 01 2018

The Canada Option is oftened mentioned in discussions about what the UK’s future relationship with the EU might look like. (It is often contrasted with the Norway Option). On 17 January,  the House of Commons Committee on Exiting the European
Union heard testimony from three expert witnesses who were deemed to be experts on the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA).  They are Christophe Bondy, Public International Lawyer at Cooley (UK) LLP and former senior counsel to the Canadian on the CETA negotiations; Dr Lorand Bartels, University of Cambridge and Senior Counsel, Linklaters; and William Swords,  a retired banker who is President of the UK-Canada Chamber of Commerce. (Personally, I’m  not at all certain why Swords was invited, since he doesn’t appear to know much about the lengthy process that resulted in the CETA agreement). Christophe Bondy, in contrast, knows a great deal, as he was in the room during the negotiations.  You can read the full transcript of his excellent testimony here. I am excepting the most powerful section of his testimony below.

Stephen Crabb MP: What is the single most important piece of advice that
you can give to the UK Government about its starting posture?

Christophe Bondy: The single most important piece of advice is to study
what the benefits are that the UK draws from the European Union. Study
how it functions. You have been participating in this for the last 45
years. I do not think this is a surprise. It was a British person, it was
Baron Cockfield, who in 1985 set out in a White Paper 300 different
measures that would have to be achieved to achieve the single market,
which were implemented. As of 2006 with the Services Directive, there
has been progressive liberalisation in trade and services across the
European Union.

You have created, as I understand, something like 58 different impact
assessments. I do not know what they contained entirely, but some of
them contain, for each of those sectors, the laws and regulations that are
the European rules of the road that sectors across the UK depend upon to
do business. You are not moving from a situation like Canada in the EU,
where there was a big wall up that we have knocked down. You can now
step over the wall so there are opportunities. That is good. You have
been living in a system that has had that bridge in place. You have been
functioning with it in place for a long time and people depend upon it.
Figure out what it is that you depend upon and how much you are willing
to give up….

In March 2019, in technical terms, the UK will experience probably the
single biggest loss of free trading rates in human history, because you
will suddenly not have the benefit of all of the treaties that the EU has
entered into, in addition to losing access to the EU.


You can read more about Christophe’s impressive CV here.

Britain will likely be moved to the back of the queue for future trade agreements with Canada

7 07 2016


The LSE’s new Brexit blog was created to allow LSE and non-LSE academics to publish short pieces that draw on their research and which connect the enormous challenges now facing the UK.  They have just published my thoughts on what Brexit means for CETA ratification. I don’t know if any prediction markets for the ratification of the Canada-EU trade agreement have been created, by I think that the chances of ratification are now slim to nil. I certainly wouldn’t bet money on the agreement coming into force.



Some Thoughts on the CETA Talks

20 04 2016

Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, is currently in Brussels for talks aimed at getting the Canada-EU trade deal finalized and ratified by the EU parliament and all of the EU member states. (Belgium’s ratification of the agreement is dependent on support from both of the country’s linguistic blocs and unfortunately the government of the French-speaking region has refused to approve the agreement). Ms. Freeland graces the cover of the current issue of the magazine for members of the EU parliament. At the margin, this publicity, plus the fact Ms. Freeland speaks French, might help to get the deal past skeptical left-wing MEPs and the government of Wallonia.



As long-time readers of this blog know, I’ve been following the CETA talks with considerable and sympathetic interest for some time.  With exquisite timing, The Conversation has just today published a short piece in which I provide some important context for understanding CETA and why CETA is relevant to the Brexit debate here in the UK.

The image above is from Twitter feed of the media officer of the Canadian mission to the EU.

Canada and the Eurozone Crisis

10 11 2011

As frequent readers of this blog will know, Canada and the European Union are in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement, commonly known as CETA. The negotiations began back in 2009. Canada and the European Union completed the ninth round of talks on 21 October in Ottawa. At the close of last month’s bargaining round, Steve Verheul, who is Canada’s chief negotiator, said that his goal was  to reach an agreement on most of the major issues by early 2012. It sounds as if real progress has been made.

So far, so good. However, an article about the negotiations that appeared in today’s edition of Embassy, an online journal devoted to Canadian diplomacy, speculates that the CETA deal could be derailed by the spiralling debt crisis in the Eurozone, which is throwing the continent’s economies and political systems into chaos. The last few days have seen resignation announcements by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou  and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. As I write this, the European Commission has just announced that it is cutting its growth estimate for the European economy. The bad economic and political news is coming now in a seemingly continuous stream. The sovereign debt crisis has raised some really profound questions about the whole nature of the European political system and the nature of democratic legitimacy. Some of Europe’s leaders believe that the best way to respond to the crisis is change the EU’s political system and move even further away from national sovereignty: France and Germany are certainly pushing for closer integration of economic and fiscal policies in the euro zone (i.e., the right of European Commission to veto national budgets). Read more here and here. To add to the atmosphere of crisis, Ed Milliband, the leader of the British Labour Party, has called for an emergency super summit of EU leaderson the grounds that the existing political institutions of Europe are broken.

What does all of this mean for Canada and the CETA agreement? In the current climate, it is increasingly difficult to predict what sort of condition the European economy will be in in 2012, when the CETA agreement is finalized and presented to their respective governments for ratification. Indeed, it will be hard to predict who will be in power in many of the European countries and what their attitudes to trade liberalization may be.

The recent events in the Eurozone underscore the need to reflect on and to discuss the CETA agreement and what it might do for both Canada and the EU. It is, therefore, a fitting time to gather to talk about CETA.

Next Friday, 18 November 2011, a small conference on CETA will be taking place in London. Full details of the conference are available here. To attend the conference, you must pre-register by 15 November.


Canada-EU Trade Agreement Conference, London, UK, 18 November 2011

14 10 2011

Macdonald House

Since 2009, diplomats from Canada and the European Union have been in negotiations to produce a comprehensive trade agreement known as CETA. For people in the EU, the agreement would provide improved access to the Canadian market, a relatively small but prosperous country. For Canadians, CETA is perhaps more important, for it provides alternatives to export dependency on the United States. I’ve blogged extensively about this agreement.

The negotiations have been protracted and have involved eight rounds of bargaining. For a chronology of the process, see here. For press coverage, see here, here, and here. For a recent C.D. Howe Institute study on the agreement, “Go Big or Go Home: Priorities for the Canada-EU Economic and Trade Agreement”, see here.

Two days from now, on 17 October, the ninth round of negotiations will begin. We are told that this will be the final round. It is now a good time for academics to discuss the agreement and its implications for Canadians and Europeans. A small conference about CETA has been organized. It will take place at Macdonald House in London, UK on 18 November.

Programme: Canada-EU Trade Agreement Conference

18 November 2011, Macdonald House, Grosvenor Square, London

12:45pm Registration

1pm Brian Parrot,  Minister Counsellor (Commercial and Economic), Canadian High Commission. Welcome statement.

1:10pm  Stefania Paladini, Coventry Business School, “FTAs: an Overview ” (10 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion)

1:30pm Alan Hallsworth  and Tim Rooth, Portsmouth Business School, University of Portsmouth (20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion). “Protectionism and Prudence:

A European perspective on Canadian international economic policy since the 1930s

2:00pm Malcolm Fairbrother, Lecturer in Global Policy and Politics, University of Bristol. “Canadian Trade Policies from the FTA to the CETA: Myths and Facts” (20 minutes for presentation, 10 minutes for Q&A)

2:30pm Andrew Smith, Coventry University. “Applying the Concepts of Cultural Distance and Imagined Communities to Understanding Canadian Economic Diplomacy”  (20 minutes for presentation, 10 minutes for Q&A)


3:15pm Keynote Speaker: Robert Hage, (Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and former Canadian diplomat), “Changing Canada: the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement.”   (20 minutes for presentation, 10 minutes for Q&A)

3:45pm Roundtable Discussion

4:15pm Conference Ends

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP Andrew Smith before 15 November 2011. ab035 at

This conference has been generously supported by Coventry University and the London Canadian Studies Association (LoCSA). The assistance of the Canadian High Commission has been absolutely essential. I would also like to thank Michael Kandiah, King’s College, University of London for his great help in organizing this conference.

A note about our keynote speaker: Robert Hage is a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.    Mr. Hage was a Canadian diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for 38 years and served as Canada’s Ambassador to Hungary and Slovenia, as Director General for Europe and Director General for Legal Affairs. He also served in Canada’s Embassies in Washington, Lagos, Paris and as Deputy Head of Mission in the Canadian Mission to the European Union in Brussels.

In Ottawa, Mr. Hage was also the Director of four divisions including International Financial and Investment Affairs and  relations with the European Union. He was Principal Counsel for the Canada-USA Free Trade Agreement, Counsel on the Environmental Side Agreement to NAFTA and was a representative for Canada at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

Mr. Hage was born in Calgary, Alberta and received his early education there.  He is a graduate of the following universities: University of Calgary, University of Toronto (LL.B), University College London (LL.M) and the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in Paris.

CETA: Why Isn’t Anybody Talking About It?

21 07 2011

When Canada’s premiers gather in Vancouver next week, it’s hard to imagine that the subject of trade talks with the European Union won’t come up. The potential ramifications of any deal for the provinces are enormous. And yet there has been little discussion in Canada about the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which is perplexing given the far-reaching implications for this country of any pact with the EU.

That’s from a recent article in the Globe and Mail. I’m shocked and somewhat appalled by how little attention has been paid to the CETA agreement. It’s not that I dislike the agreement (far from it!), but I do think that the media has done the publics of Canada and Europe a disservice by not covering what could be an important turning point in Canadian history.

My frustration at the lack of attention to CETA is one of the reasons why I decided to organize a one-day conference on CETA. It’s going to take place on 18 November 2011 in London and is called “CETA and Canada-EU Economic Linkages in the 21st Century”.  The conference is designed to bring together academics, journalists, and others interested in this proposed agreement.

Our confirmed speakers are: Robert Hage, DFAIT (retired); Patrick Leblond (University of Ottawa); John M. Curtis  (now at CIGI, formerly Chief Economist of the Canadian Dept of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) ; Kurt Hübner (UBC).

The lead organizer of this conference is Michael Kandiah at King’s College within the University of London.  Michael’s research specialty is modern British political and diplomatic history. His prefered research methodology is oral history. He has done work on such topics as the history of the British Conservative party under Thatcher and the 1976 IMF bailout of the UK.

P.S. Check out this interesting article, which argues that one of the possible results of this agreement would be the elimination of interprovincial trade barriers within Canada.

UKIP on the Canada-EU trade agreement

21 07 2011

UKIP is a right-wing party opposed to Britain’s membership in the European Union. Although it certainly isn’t a racist party like the BNP, it does engage in the politics of the nostalgia and frequently pines for the days when Britain’s ties to the Dominions were much stronger. Despite its hatred of the EU, UKIP members sit in the EU Parliament. One of them gave this speech on the proposed Canada-EU trade agreement. He professes to be concerned about the possibility that the agreement would limit Canadian sovereignty.

Big Canada, Little Canada, and the Canadian Constitution

8 06 2011

I’ve blogged in the past about the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA).

I thought that I would bring your attention to a recent article on CETA by Robert Hage. Hage is a former Canadian ambassador and director general for both Europe and legal affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. His article contextualizes the current negotiations and talks about the importance of the Quebec-France relationship to the launching of the talks.

The EU has overcome centuries of mutual hostility and nationalist rivalries to create a single market spanning 27 countries with 500 million people. It is the ultimate post-conflict reconciliation project.  Canada not yet achieved an EU-style single market in goods and services thanks to interprovincial trade barriers.

Hage says something very interesting about the role of Canada’s provincial governments in the negotiations. Traditionally, relations with foreign countries were regarded as exclusively a matter of federal jurisdiction rather a matter shared between the federal and provincial governments. The 1867 Canadian constitution (the British North America Act) doesn’t really specify which level of government should have control over foreign policy because at the time it was drafted, Britain represented Canada in the international arena. Canada’s written constitution merely states that:

The Parliament and Government of Canada shall have all Powers necessary or proper for performing the Obligations of Canada or of any Province thereof, as Part of the British Empire, towards Foreign Countries, arising under Treaties between the Empire and such Foreign Countries. 

Since 1867, Canada’s courts have had to make a series of decision about exactly how far federal control over foreign relations should extend. The situation in Canada has, historically, been similar to that of Australia, another country where the written constitution is ambiguous about which level of government controls foreign affairs. As Ryan Morrow argued earlier this year, “in Australia, centralized treaty-power encourages a centripetal dynamic and dysfunctional intergovernmental relations. Conversely, in Canada, treaty-powers promote a modestly centrifugal dynamic which protects the federal balance and necessitates intergovernmental relations premised on federal and provincial equality.” In other words, power over foreign policy in Canada has gradually moved away from the central government and to the sub-national units, whereas the opposite has been the case in Australia. A key differences between Canada and Australia is that Canada is a bi-national federation: Quebec and other provinces have long campaigned for a great role in international diplomacy. Quebec maintains a network of quasi-diplomatic offices abroad.

With the CETA talks, Canada’s provincial governments have, for the first time, been given seats at an international negotiating table. Hage regards this as a major step in “functional federalism” going beyond the strict constitutional provisions of the federal “trade and commerce” power Canada’s written constitution.

If you look at Canada House in Trafalgar Square in London, you will see that the flags of Canada’s provinces are prominently displayed, which is symbolic of the role that the provincial governments now play in Canadian diplomacy.

Canada House

Oil Sands and the Canada-EU Trade Deal

3 03 2011

Is the proposed Canada-EU trade agreement in danger? Friction over Canada’s oilsands came to a head last week, after the publication of previously secret EU documents which suggest that Canada had threatened to suspend the talks if the EU insisted on introducing an environmental clause for oil imports.

It also appears that the proposed text of the deal, which is still secret, contains a clause that would allow firms to sue a government if it imposed a climate change regulation or carbon tax that inhibited their ability to produce fossil fuels under their current business model.

See more here.

Canada-EU Trade Pact

10 02 2011

I have blogged earlier about the ongoing negotiations for a Canada-EU trade deal. One issue that could derail the deal is the whole question of patent life for prescription drugs– the EU would like Canada to extend the period of intellectual property protection for new drugs, an idea opposed by Canada’s generic drug makers and by the provincial ministries of health, which pay for most of the drugs consumed in Canada. According to one estimate, this aspect of the deal could cost Canada $2.8 billion per year.