European and Canadian minerals industries have broadly
welcomed the European Parliament’s approval of the
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the
European Union (EU) and Canada, saying it will bolster already
The laboriously negotiated deal, the tax and quota
liberalisation elements of which could take effect as early as
April this year, will remove nearly 99% of tariffs on all goods
traded between the EU and Canada and eliminate tax
Despite fierce parliamentary opposition to the pact,
including resistance from the Europe of Nations and Freedom
group, whose co-chair, French presidential hopeful Marine Le
Pen, condemned CETA as "terrible (…) undermining
thousands of jobs in Europe", the majority of members of the
European Parliament (MEPs) supported CETA and the deal was
passed by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions.
Europe’s lead negotiator for CETA, Latvian
centre-right MEP Artis Pabriks, said following the vote on 15
February that "a very historic trade deal" between the
world’s "best partners" had been secured.
Canadian minister for international trade,
François-Philippe Champagne, added that CETA was the
"most progressive trade agreement in the world".
Critics of the deal have argued that the agreement will
benefit only multinational companies; however, EU trade
commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said CETA would deliver
economic advantages for small and medium-sized enterprises,
through "lower tariffs, less bureaucracy and better access to
A number of European industrial minerals associations have
expressed their support for the deal. The European Ceramic
Industry Association (Cerame-Unie) said CETA would offer its
members better market access to Canada by reducing customs
duties on some of its products.
"Although the EU already has a considerable positive trade
balance with Canada, the European ceramics industry could
further increase its export market potential once CETA is
applied," a Cerame-Unie spokesperson told
"Regarding ceramic goods, total EU exports [were worth]
around €210m against imports of €4m in 2015," they
added. While ceramic simport figures remained stable from
2009-2015, export income has fluctuated as part of a net upward
trend from €126m in 2009 to €200m in 2013, although
growth has since slowed down.
Cerame-Unie figures show that the EU ceramics exported to
Canada currently face import tariffs of up to 9%. The highest
duties include 9% tax on abrasives and up to 7% for
refractories, technical ceramics and table and ornamental
ware. Bricks and roof tiles have 3-8% tariffs, with wall and
floor tiles carrying an 8% rate and sanitary ware is taxed at
European mining industry group Euromines has also praised
the CETA deal. "In general, we welcome such a trade agreement
as we are in favour of free and fair trade," the body said.
Euromines backs the EU’s call for an EU-Canada
mineral investment facility (MIF) to be established in the
wake of CETA to help guarantee access to a secure and
sustainable suppy of raw materials for EU industry.
"We are currently working with the European Commission on a
feasibility study proposal for this facility which was
initiated in January 2017," a Euromines spokesperson told
"The study [undertaken by accountancy firm EY], which will
encompass associated events and stakeholder dialogue, should
analyse the current state of co-operation between the EU and
Canada on the mining sector and related technology and
services," they explained.
As well as concluding how to promote and structure
co-operation, the study is also tasked with examining options
for the best design of a potential MIF.
Further underpinning the CETA deal and the MIF proposal is
the fact that a number of European companies have invested in
the Canadian mineral industry and vice versa – an
area that Euromines believes has the potential to expand.
"Following the [global] economic crisis, exploration
investment in Europe in general has been down and CETA and [an
MIF] might assist in rebuilding bilateral investment," it said.
"CETA will not only be of relevance for the exploration and
mining companies as such but also to suppliers for technology
The Industrial Minerals Association of Europe (IMA-Europe)
told IM it does not have an official
position on CETA, but added that: "As a trade organisation, we
welcome the possibility to increase exchanges with Canada." It
also pointed to the 125 industrial organisation signatories to
a joint declaration for an EU industrial strategy on 16
February this year, which it says could benefit from the
CETA has been warmly received by the Mining Association of
Canada (MAC), a body that lobbies the Canadian government to
secure such trade deals, since the majority of Canadian mineral
output is exported.
"The mining sector relies on access to [overseas] markets to
sell its products," the association said. "Any free trade and
investment protection agreements are incredibly important for
access, especially for key markets like the EU."
The MAC is also pressing for additional trade deals with
other major markets such as China and India and wants the
Canadian government to invest in the necessary infrastructure
to transport minerals from often remote Canadian mines to North
American sea and lake ports.
"Such investment needs to be staged in parallel with trade
negotiations," MAC told IM. "Improvements
should be made to rail services. We need ports and roads and in
a lot of our remote northern regions, that infrastructure is
lacking," it added.
Building on rock
Mineral trade between the EU and Canada is already healthy,
judging by statistics from EU statistical agency,
The EU imported €61m ($64.1m*)-worth of potassic
(potash-based) fertilisers from Canada in 2015, while EU
exports of mineral-based chemicals to the North American
country, including €79.4m of nitrogenous fertilisers
(largely urea) in 2015, represent a significant source of
foreign exchange earnings for European companies.
Aside from potash products, the EU also imported
€9m-worth of Canadian bentonite in 2015; €7.3m of
titanium oxides; and €1.8m of polyphosphates. Imports of
salts, sulphur, earths, stone, plastering materials, lime and
cement from Canada collectively reached €27.4m that year,
according to Eurostat (see Table 1).
The bloc further imported €21m-worth of Canadian glass
products and ceramic materials worth €3.5m in 2015,
although these figures were dwarfed by volumes going the
opposite way, with EU exports of ceramics to Canada reaching
€196m that year and glassware shipments totalling
Combined EU exports of salts, sulphur, earths and stone,
plastering materials, lime and cement were valued at €27m
in 2015 (see Table 2), including €6m-worth of
Potential shifts in trade relations
Some Canadian exporters are less concerned about the EU
market than they are with sales to buyers in neighbouring US
and growing markets in Asia.
Canada produced Canadian dollar (C$) 6.6bn ($4.9bn)-worth of
potash in 2015, according to the Natural Resources Canada.
Bill Cooper, public affairs manager at Canadian potash giant
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PotashCorp),
told IM that his company has "a
very small amount of sales into Europe."
But with future trade relations between the US and Canada
uncertain under the new Donald Trump-led Republican
administration, which has pushed for increased protectionism in
the US and demanded a renegotiation of the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Europe may become an even more
important trade partner for Canada.
PotashCorp say they have only "very small
amount" of potash sales into Europe.
There is, however, already stiff competition for European
custom in raw materials. "Europe has its own domestic [potash]
supply from Germany and Spain and there are imports from
Belarus," one Canadian industry official, who preferred not to
be named, told IM.
Despite these misgivings, CETA is still regarded as an
opportunity to increase Canada-EU commodities business,
including trade in agricultural products which would have
knock-on benefits for domestic mineral industries.
"As the representative of an industry that trades with 80
countries worldwide, [our organisation] is supportive of
agreements (…) that have the potential to boost trade,"
said Garth Whyte, CEO of industry association Fertilizer
"What is good for farmers is good for the Canadian fertilizer
industry. CETA will generate growth in the farming community,
and those benefits will no doubt be extended to our
industry," he added.
*Conversions made March 2017