This year’s EU-Canada summit will take place in Prague on 6 May. The EU will be represented by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in his role as EU President in Office. Canada will be represented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Summit agenda will cover a range of issues starting from a follow-up to the recent G-20 meeting in London to an array of bilateral topics, such as the marking of the EU-Canada Air Transport Agreement and the EU-Canada Air Safety Agreement. The centrepiece of this year’s summit is the EU-Canada economic partnership as it will see the launch of negotiations towards a new economic and free trade agreement. This agreement will go beyond current WTO commitments and will reinforce the already strong bilateral trade and investment relationship. Furthermore, leaders will express their commitment to building a low-carbon global economy while strengthening capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Other issues to be touched upon will include Afghanistan, where the EU and Canada are co-operating closely together to promote good governance and the rule of law.
Prior to the Summit President José Manuel Barroso commented:
“This Summit will launch key initiatives which will boost our partnership and will bring clear benefits to our citizens. The negotiations towards a new economic and free trade agreement will lift EU-Canada relations to an altogether new level. And the air services- and air safety agreements are the most ambitious we have ever concluded. This is the kind of signals we need to send out at this crucial time, signals that we want to keep open markets to generate prosperity.”
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner remarked:
“Canada is a longstanding strategic ally for us in the global arena. I very much appreciate Canadian support and cooperation in many parts of the world and I also value Canada’s participation and cooperation especially in the field of election observation. I particularly welcome Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan and I hope for further Canadian secondments in the context of the ongoing increase of the size of the EUPOL Mission.”
Catherine Ashton, Commissioner for Trade welcomed the expected launch of negotiations:
“At a time when concerns about protectionism dominate the trade agenda, the decision to start negotiations now sends a powerful message that open trade and investment are drivers of economic recovery. This agreement will strengthen a deep and stable relationship that is already worth some EUR 70 billion annually in trade of goods and services alone, delivering new jobs for workers, lower prices for consumers and reduced regulatory costs for business.”
At the summit in Prague, the final text of the EU-Canada Air Transport Agreement, endorsed by the EU Council on 30 March 2009, has been marked. The agreement will be a significant step in the opening of markets and investment opportunities and will generate major benefits for consumers, airlines and broader economies on both sides of the Atlantic. Formal signature of the Agreement will take place as soon as all language versions are authenticated by the Parties. An agreement on aviation safety was also signed allowing for savings of millions of euros annually thanks to shorter and simpler approval procedures and mutual acceptance of products’ tests.
“These agreements make the EU-Canada aviation market one of the most open in the world and a milestone for EU-Canada relations. It is an important sign in the current economic turmoil that the EU and Canada are acting, not to close down their markets, but to remove barriers and improve links between people and businesses”
, said Antonio Tajani, Commission Vice-President responsible for transport.
The EU-Canada economic relationship is currently overseen by a cooperative framework established in 1976, the EU’s first such arrangement with an industrialised country. Since that time, a number of sectoral agreements have been concluded; however, no single, broad-based and binding agreement exists to address the EU-Canada economic relationship as a whole. The launching of negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement at this Summit thus introduces a new level to the vibrant EU-Canada relations.
At last year’s Summit, EU and Canadian Leaders agreed to work together to define the scope of a deepened economic agreement. This scoping exercise is complete, having outlined the main areas of the future agreement. Both sides have obtained their negotiating mandates, permitting both sides to launch negotiations at this Summit.