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.

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.

Should the CETA Talks Be Merged Into the TTIP Negotiations?

23 10 2013


I recently discussed how the Canada-EU trade agreement talks are inching towards an actual deal. I said that the tentative agreement between Canada and the EU that was announced last week would be important both as a stand-alone agreement and a template for the ongoing negotiations between the United States and the European Union for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) . Speaking last July, former US Trade Representative Carla Hills argued for the three NAFTA countries to negotiate as a bloc with the EU.

Hills served as U.S. trade representative (1989-93) in the first Bush administration. Perhaps we should listen to her advice on this issue. Merging the CETA and TTIP talks might allow for a more comprehensive agreement than the rather limited one the governments of Canada and the EU appear to have in mind. The TTIP negotiation sessions planned for last week (7-11 October 2013) in Brussels had to be cancelled due to the US administration shutdown.  Now that the shutdown has ended and US diplomats are back at work, the issue of broadening the trade talks can be reopened.


CETA: Canada-EU Trade Agreement

21 10 2013

Canada and the European Union have reached an agreement in principle for a free trade agreement.  I would hold off on opening up any celebratory bottles of champagne, as many important details remain to be negotiated before the process of ratifying this rather modest agreement can even begin. Once the finalized agreement is signed, it must be passed by the European Parliament, and the parliaments of all 28 countries in the EU. Three of these nations have said they will withhold support until Canada removes the visa requirement from their citizens.  Canada’s ten provincial legislatures will also have to endorse the agreement, as it involves matters of provincial jurisdiction.  I wish the Canadian federal government the best of luck in their negotiations with the provinces.

I’ve been blogging about CETA for a long time. See here, here, and here.  I even organized a conference on CETA in 2011. When the CETA negotiations first opened, there were wildly optimistic predictions about the degree of liberalization the agreement would provide for. I recall that many Canadians thought the agreement would give Canada a sort of EU-associate status similar that enjoyed by Iceland, Switzerland, and Norway. Others suggested that the agreement would lead to mobility rights for Canadians similar to those enjoyed by citizens of EU countries, which would have given Canadians the right to settle and work in the EU and vice versa. There was a lot of discussion of the elimination of all barriers to investment and the mutual recognition of qualifications for doctors, accountants, and other professions. Canadians across the political spectrum welcomed the idea of rebalancing Canada’s trade away from the United States and towards the EU.

The draft agreement that has been described by the Canadian media in the last few days is much more modest. Indeed, it isn’t really accurate to describe it as a comprehensive free trade agreement. Instead, the agreement merely modifies the regime of managed trade that relates to many commodities.  Consider dairy products. Visitors to Canada are often struck by the fact that cheese is extremely expensive. Canadian visitors to supermarkets in the EU are often impressed by the range of cheeses from EU countries on offer. In an ideal world, Canada would fling open its gates and allow EU cheese to be imported freely.  Alas, that’s not what this agreement provides for. Instead, Canada will increase its annual import quota of cheese from the European Union to about 30,000 tonnes per year from its current 15,000 tonnes. In return, the EU will allow Canadian beef producers to export up to 50,000 tonnes per year.  Based on the media reports I’ve seen, the draft agreement does not even deal with the vexed issue of the food quality regulations governing beef: Canada permits the injection of growth hormones into cattle, whereas the European Union does not permit hormonally enhanced beef to be sold within its borders. The media reports of the draft agreement are silent on this important issue. Moreover, we haven’t heard anything about whether the agreement will require the EU parliament to abandon its plans to effective ban oil from Canada’s tar sands.

The provisions regarding professional qualifications are equally disappointing, as the agreement will simply authorize Canada’s highly protectionist self-governing professional bodies to enter into mutual recognition agreements with their European equivalents if they so choose. I predict that few agreements for the mutually recognition of qualifications will result.

The agreement’s provisions regarding capital mobility are somewhat more substantial but still underwhelming.

Under the Investment Canada Act the Canadian government must review foreign takeover of Canadian companies is the value of the takeover is over C$334million. In the past, there was uncertainty over whether the government would allow particular takeovers to go ahead.  Under CETA, the statutory requirement for a review of takeovers by EU companies will not kick unless the total value is greater than $1.5-billion. The change reflects “the special relationship” between Canada and Europe.  Actually, the relationship doesn’t seem to be that special, if the threshold for EU companies is only 50% greater than the proposed threshold for non-EU companies (C$1billion). Non-EU companies would include state-owned enterprises in the People’s Republic of China. Moreover, the proposed agreement would not alter Canadian ownership restrictions in the airline, cultural and telecommunications sectors. 

In recent years, Canada’s budget for economic diplomacy has been cut. Indeed, Canadian diplomats recently went on strike because they were so angry about the reduction in funding for embassies and other overseas operations. Perhaps a more robust foreign service would have had the resources to produce a more impressive agreement.