25 September 2014

Oh Canada! CETA killed off the FQD

What you won’t hear at this week’s EU-Canada summit

Simon McKeagney, Editor

It’s often what is not said, rather than what is said, that is more interesting. The EU-Canada summit this week is a prime example. There are two items that are unlikely to feature high, if at all, on the agenda; the long-awaited CETA deal, and the long-lost Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). On the latter, it has been widely speculated for some time that there has been a link between Canada and the curious case of the EU’s vanishing FQD. And it looks increasingly like the former is to blame.  

The FQD, which was agreed to in 2009, but never implemented, was to cut transport emissions by up to 10% by 2020, a significant decrease for one of the only sectors with a growing CO2 footprint, due to expand by 40% by 2020. CETA negotiations also began in 2009, and Canada made no secret of its distaste for Europe’s efforts to put a price tag on the most polluting fuels. The highly toxic Canadian tar sands in Alberta would be top of that list, negatively effecting exports to the EU.

‘Addressing Canada’s concerns’

While the evidence relating to the FQD-shelving pointed in only one direction, little could be substantiated with an official response from Commission or Council. However, a note from a Council document (from the General Secretariat to Coreper) from earlier this year, seems to give credence to the long-held speculation:

‘Energy has been an under performing area of cooperation with Canada, due in part to Canada’s opposition to the pending implementing measure under the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive. This measure is about to be tabled by the European Commission, following very close consultations with the Canadian side and other stakeholders, and should address Canada’s concerns.'

So do ‘very close consultations’ with the Canadians mean game over for the FQD? That their concerns are being addressed certainly suggests so. It’s unlikely to be a topic of conversation at a summit that will hail nothing but success, with some occasional back-slapping. But it is an insight into the political trade-offs that accompany agreements like CETA. It shows how easily our democratically made decisions can be undermined by the offensive interests of our trading partners, over that of the public good. And it will have broader implications for other deals, like TTIP.

It is ironic that on the same week that global leaders meet in New York to outline their efforts in cutting CO2 emissions, the EU and Canada will reaffirm their deepening trade bonds by burying a directive that could do exactly that. And though Canada has increasingly embraced its bad boy image when it comes to taking climate change seriously, the EU sets the tone when it comes to (trying) to implement pro-climate policy as a bloc. Thus, letting the FQD gather dust for close to 5 years does not only have reprehensible implications for the climate, but may turn back the clock on similar policy decisions globally. 

Indeed, the Coreper file readily admits that cooperation in the the areas of environment and climate change with Canada ‘has been significantly reduced due to the positions taken by the Canadian government.’ Not reduced enough, it seems, for the EU to agree to bow to whatever demands Canada has placed on this key piece of European environmental legislation.  

That won’t be the only thing left unsaid at the summit. 

Although both sides will claim victory on CETA on September 26, it will not be initialled, given the on-going issues regarding Investor-State Dispute Settlement. The announcement that the talks have concluded may then take on a manner akin to Orwellian double-speak, as negotiations could very well continue. The exemption requests for ISDS from both sides show that there is acknowledgement that risks exist with the controversial mechanism. EU countries may eventually fall into line behind the Commission, despite the fact that it is not possible to predict all of the pitfalls of ISDS in the future for sectors not covered by carve-outs. Many MEPs have voiced opposition to ISDS in CETA also. It is more than likely that it will remain in the CETA text by the time it reaches the plenary floor for a vote. 

While no one disputes the added benefits of trade between nations, such comprehensive agreements like CETA, and the soon to follow TTIP, extend the grasp of industry-driven demands over our regulatory and legislative decision-making. The FQD was a good policy choice, favoured by civil society and sensible for Europe. There is no question now that the EU’s trade deal with Canada killed it off. All the more reason why we need a transparent trade policy here in Europe. Because what is left unsaid, is usually what matters most.

Please share!

Related content

Pat McGrail

Would the EU Commission foist a 20-year trade deal on Cdns who have no say in the matter and who have been kept in the dark about CETA??

We know that China would. But the EU???

Unlike most European countries, Cda has a dysfunctional FPTP electoral system which rewards the CONs with 100% power with less than 40% of the votes.

PM Harper does not speak for most Canadians. Do not lock us into CETA!

Your comment