July 8, 2017 / 2:15 PM / 16 days ago

EU, Canada agree start of free trade agreement

2 Min Read

The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker talks with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) prior the beginning of the third working session of the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017.Ludovic Marin/POOL

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Canada said on Saturday they had agreed to start a free trade agreement on Sept. 21, paving the way for over 90 percent of the treaty to come into effect.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been championed by both sides as a landmark deal for open markets against a protectionist tide, but last-minute wrangles over cheese and pharmaceuticals were holding up its start.

"Meeting at the G20 in Hamburg, reconfirming our joint commitment to the rules-based international trading system, we agreed to set the date of 21 September 2017 to start the provisional application of the agreement, thus allowing for all the necessary implementing measures to be taken before that date," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

"It is by opening up to each other, by working closely with those who share the same values that we will shape and harness globalisation," the joint declaration said.

The agreement will enter definitively into force once all 28 EU member states and parliaments ratify it.

The EU had not been satisfied that Canada would effectively open up its markets to 17,700 additional tonnes of EU cheese and provide guarantees for the patents of European pharmaceuticals.

A spokesman for Canadian trade minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the allocation of the cheese tariff rate quota would be made before the September deadline.

"So what happens now is that both sides will complete their internal processes and closely consult one another on how the agreement will be implemented. This is about ensuring a smooth transition to a strong start for CETA," the spokesman said.

Both sides had been hoping for the provisional implementation of the agreement this month.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti, additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Jon Boyle and Robin Pomeroy

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