Is the European Union Trade Deal with Canada New or Recycled? A Text-as-data Approach

Photo credit: Michael Simmons via / CC BY-NC-ND

Are the rules in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) largely copied from past trade agreements, or are they new and potentially groundbreaking? Some critics charge that CETA merely replicates the failures of past trade deals, while others worry that CETA is specifying new ‘behind the border’ rules that threaten state sovereignty. Using text analysis we compare the contents in CETA to those in previous trade agreements signed by both parties. Unlike many other recent trade deals, we find that much of the content in CETA is indeed novel. On average only about 7 per cent of CETA language is copied directly from any of the 49 previous trade agreements we analyze. This same pattern holds across many of the most controversial issue areas, like investment. Some recent agreements like EU-Singapore (30%) and Canada-South Korea (24%) are replicated in part in CETA, although recycled text is more likely to come from past Canadian PTAs than EU ones. Our results suggest that fears that CETA is ‘more of the same’ are overblown and indicate that if ratified CETA likely will play an important role as a model in future trade agreements.