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Let me begin by congratulating Canada on its sound economic performance over the last few years. Canada's economy has been operating at near capacity amidst the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years as well as low inflation. As an open economy that depends significantly on international trade, Canada is well placed to appreciate the value of a predictable international trading environment.
We fully share Canada’s dedication to upholding and strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system in the current time of trouble. Canada is a reliable, committed partner in our shared endeavour to keep the WTO relevant and modernise it so that it can “continue to provide a platform for economic growth through trade”, as the Canadian government report puts it. We appreciate Canada’s initiative to advance discussions on WTO modernisation in the so-called Ottawa Group, in which the EU is a participant. We also value Canada’s concrete contributions to safeguarding the dispute settlement system, improving the WTO’s monitoring function and advancing rulemaking in the ongoing negotiations on e-commerce and fisheries subsidies, amongst others.
Further, the EU commends Canada for its efforts to ensure that trade is not only open, but inclusive. Governments must indeed work to ensure that the benefits of trade are accessible to all citizens, and the EU and Canada are showing leadership in this regard also in the framework of CETA, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, by enhancing the participation of SMEs in trade, women’s economic empowerment and the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
The EU is Canada's second largest trading partner after the United States both for goods (absorbing 7% of Canadian exports and accounting for 12% of imports) and for services (accounting for 17% of Canada’s exports and 19% of its imports).
At the time of Canada's eleventh Trade Policy Review, the trade ties between the EU and Canada are closer than ever. 2018 was the first full year in which CETA was provisionally applied. While this is a short time from the perspective of statistics, we are pleased to note that bilateral trade flows are increasing compared to the average of the previous three years. The institutional structure of CETA is up and running, the ratification process in the EU is ongoing and our focus is now on implementing CETA as a progressive agreement promoting open, rules-based trade and delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.
Chair, certain obstacles to trade can persist even in an open trading economy. In the case of Canada, the obstacles that EU operators encounter are concentrated almost fully in the agri-food sector. Several of the EU's written questions focused on this sector, for example:
We thank Canada for having chosen the alternative timeframe again, which has allowed us to review Canada's replies to our questions ahead of the meeting.
Chair, the European Union looks forward to continuing our close cooperation with Canada on our shared goal to leverage trade for more prosperity, both in the context of CETA implementation and WTO reform.
On behalf of the EU, I wish Canada a productive and successful review.