Next stop in the trade debate: Bratislava

Source: A.C. (Cecilia) Malmström i, published on Wednesday, September 21 2016.

In the midst of the ongoing debate about our trade deal with Canada, and EU trade policy in general, I am heading to Bratislava. For the next two days, the Slovak capital will be the centre of EU trade policy discussions.

I hope that the series of meetings planned there will bring us closer to the decision on the entry into force of the EU-Canada treaty. This agreement - CETA - is the most forward-looking free trade agreement that Canada or the EU have ever negotiated. It will benefit consumers, workers and entrepreneurs, tearing down customs tariffs and opening up a valuable market for Europe. And it will demonstrate that Europe and Canada mean what we say, when we say we want a progressive trade policy that upholds our shared values.

Since the beginning of my mandate as EU Commissioner for trade, I have been engaging at many occasions with civil society organisations, trade unions, consumer organisations and others, to listen to their concerns and explain how we address them in the trade negotiations. As a result of such engagement, we've changed for instance our approach to investment protection in CETA.

On Monday of this week, I met in Brussels with representatives from over 130 organisations at a Civil Society Dialogue to discuss the benefits of CETA (read my speech). But it's important to continue these meetings also outside Brussels. That is why tomorrow, I will host a conference in Bratislava entitled ‘EU Trade Agreements in Practice - Making Trade Work for You’. More info about it can be found here, including video to be published after the event.

Stakeholders from business, the European Parliament, trade unions and civil society will have the opportunity to exchange ideas on EU trade and investment policy and what it means for growth and jobs. Chrystia Freeland, Minister for International Trade of Canada - my Canadian counterpart - will join me tomorrow afternoon for that discussion. Earlier this week, the two of us also underlined the importance of CETA in a joint statement.

I will also have a working lunch with Peter Žiga, Minister of Economy of Slovakia, who's currently holding the EU Presidency, and also meet members of the Slovakian Parliament.

On Friday, I will spend the day with the ministers of trade from 28 EU Member States. All Member States need to agree to the Canada agreement before it can start creating jobs for Europeans. I know that some concerns among Member States still remain, concerns that now need to be discussed in full.

I will use the opportunity on Friday meeting to provide clarifications, including our shared views with Canada about the delivery of public services, safeguarding labour rights and environmental protection. I will underline our joint commitment to carefully monitor the improved investment dispute settlement mechanism included in CETA, to ensure it operates in a truly independent manner.

I hope that the coming two days will bring us closer to the decision of signing the Canada trade agreement this fall. This discussion, in my view, is also about how Europe is going to approach the unavoidable fact that the world is more connected today than ever before. And, in the end, whether we want our European societies to be more open or more closed.