Flags of the E.U. and Canada symbolise CETA - the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; Source: istockphoto.com/Ruskpp

© istockphoto.com/Ruskpp

At their Council meeting in Brussels today, the EU Trade Ministers welcomed the results of the negotiations on a free trade agreement with Canada (CETA).

State Secretary Machnig said: "CETA sets standards for other agreements and is thus also a yardstick for TTIP. The important Canadian market will be opened for German and European companies. Our enterprises will, for instance, be granted equal access to a large number of public contracts in Canada. The introduction of a modern investment protection system is particularly important. Private arbitral tribunals will be a thing of the past. This is in line with our aspirations to shape the global economy, and the same goes for the agreement of high labour, consumer and environmental standards. It should also be underlined that CETA is a 'mixed' agreement, which means that it must be ratified by national parliaments. All EU Member States agree on this."

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström reported on the current status of negotiatons on TTIP after the 13th round of negotiations in April. The negotiations are being intensified with the aim to conclude them by the end of 2016. The EU Trade Ministers welcomed this objective, pointing out the EU's red lines in the negotiations.

State Secretary Machnig said: "We aim to conclude an ambitious and balanced agreement with the U.S. rather than a 'TTIP light'. This is the only way to ensure that TTIP will create good jobs. As an exporting country, Germany in particular can benefit from a comprehensive opening of the U.S. market for our companies. After the conclusion of the agreement with Canada, we now have the opportunity to shape globalisation together with another important trading partner by setting high standards. It is also clear that the EU will stick to important positions in the negotiations: the introduction of a new investment protection system following the example of CETA, no lowering of protection standards, no undermining of EU procedures and of competences as a result of regulatory cooperation, no opening-up for hormone-treated meat and no changes in the labelling of genetically modified organisms. In addition, the precautionary principle in the EU is not up for negotiation."

The current crisis of the European steel industry resulting from enormous overcapacities in third states was another priority item on the Council's agenda.

State Secretary Machnig called for a clear trade policy response: "Overcapacities in China must not be to the detriment of the European steel industry. Many jobs in Germany and throughout Europe depend on this industry. We therefore need to take a broad range of measures. This includes better, faster and more effective anti-dumping measures to ward off imports at dumping prices."

The issues that were also discussed at the Council meeting comprise the status of the negotiations in the WTO after the successful WTO Ministerial Conferences in Bali (2013) and Nairobi (2015) and the proposal on conflict minerals; here, the EU aims to introduce due diligence for imports of raw materials from conflict and high-risk areas.