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Labour mobility: CETA in the name of innovation

Labour mobility: CETA in the name of innovation

The Canada-EU agreement has not only removed customs barriers. It facilitates the mobility of workers, creates the conditions for the recognition of professional qualifications and guarantees the protection of workers between the parties. Another proof of the innovative nature of this Agreement, which consolidates the relationship between Europe and Canada around the European values of respect for rights and multilateralism.




The discussion on CETA, the agreement between Canada and the EU, conceived with the primary aim of promoting the flow of goods, services and investments for the benefit of the parties, focused mainly on the well-known aspects of reducing customs tariffs and other trade barriers, support for rigorous European standards in areas such as hygiene-sanitary food safety, the environment, respect for democracy.


On the other hand, we have focused less on the important aspect concerning labour mobility, which is actually a very important issue: the agreement, which aims to be innovative in this respect too, acts on the mechanisms that facilitate the entry of workers in the territories of the States Parties and the stay of people for professional reasons through the recognition of their respective qualifications, which results in an improved possibility to expand economic activities beyond their borders.


Further barriers to the movement of workers between the two sides of the Atlantic are eliminated, highlighting how the changes implemented in the labour market will favor trade both immediately with the entry into force of the agreement, which took place provisionally, as known, in September 2017, and over time with the promotion of trade and common values.


Canada is a large market for European exports and a country rich in natural resources that Europe needs. The CETA agreement, the first large-scale agreement with a highly industrialized Western country, facilitates access to the Canadian market for EU operators, as the elimination of delays and administrative costs previously imposed mean that the workers can more easily enter their respective markets both for a temporary stay and for a longer period of time and this is achieved, as we shall see, through the introduction of new categories of travelers for professional reasons.


The agreement, through mutual coordination, favors the workers with a flexible and reliable regulation that presides over the development of new circulation modalities, indicating different time-limits, years of experience, training, and conditions according to the various statutes.






For our purposes, we noted here chapter 10 of the Agreement in which legal certainty is given to skilled workers who move temporarily to the EU or Canada to carry out an entrepreneurial activity, the types of professionals involved and the sectors in which they can operate are specified, the maximum duration of the stay, the equal treatment for the operators in the respective territories. The mobility of workers, which can benefit from the CETA agreement is facilitated primarily by the removal of the necessary requisites by the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This is a document that the Canadian employer may have to obtain before hiring a foreign worker, in which is specified not only that this is possible, but also that no Canadian worker makes himself available for that position. Now new exemption codes from LMIA have been established to collect data on workers from the EU Member States.

In some cases, the demand of European citizens can be evaluated at the time of entry or if meet the criteria set out in section 199 of the “Regulation on Immigration and Refugee[1] Protection” in Canada or from a Canadian representation abroad.


The CETA measures on the mobility of workers do not in fact concern the measures relating to residence or citizenship on a permanent basis. Furthermore, the rules do not affect the application of measures necessary to protect the integrity of the borders, unless they are applied in such a way as to nullify the advantages deriving from CETA. Contact points are established to facilitate the exchange of information, the management of practices, the development of common criteria and measures to further facilitate the temporary entry of natural persons for professional reasons and the formulation of recommendations to the Joint Committee.


Having said this, the agreement takes into consideration three categories of workers:

  1. key personnel, or visitors for reasons of business for investment purposes, investors or those who are part of a temporary transfer within a company;
  2. contractual service suppliers and independent professionals;
  3. visitors on short-term business transfers.


Key personnel

Regarding the Key Personnel for which there are no numerical barriers, let alone the verification of the economic needs, the maximum duration of the stay is:

  • 3 years for personnel transferred in a specialized and high-level company;
  • 1 year for graduate trainees;
  • 1 year for investors, even if with possible extensions;
  • 90 days for business visitors and for investment purposes.

All visitors for business reasons considered by the CETA are eligible to apply for admission to Canada for a certain number of regular visits in relation to specific projects distributed over several weeks or months. Annex 10 D lists the activities for which a visitor for professional reasons can travel to Canada: meetings and consultations, conferences with associates, research and design, market research, training seminars, fairs and exhibitions, sales, purchases, after-sales and post-rental service, commercial transactions, staff in the tourism sector, translation and interpreters.


Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals

As regards the contractual service suppliers and independent professionals, temporary entry and stay are authorized subject to certain conditions:

  • the fact that natural persons providing services are employees of a company that has obtained a contract not exceeding 12 months;
  • they must have worked with the company for at least one year prior to submitting an application for entry to Canada and must have accumulated at least 3 years of professional experience in the sector mentioned above.

Entry and stay are related only to the service object of the contract with full compliance with the legislative provisions of the territory of the part in which one operates. Furthermore, according to Annex 10 E natural persons must provide a service on a temporary basis as self-employed workers established in the territory of the other party with a service contract that does not exceed 12 months and must have 6 years of professional experience in the business sector covered by the contract.

The duration of the stay is a period of 12 months over a period of 24 months with possible extensions.


Short-term visitors for business purposes

In accordance with Annex 10B, the entry and stay of these visitors is limited to 90 days within 6 months. Their activities are subject to certain limits:

  • they must not be engaged in activities of selling goods or providing services to the public;
  • they must not receive remuneration in the territory in which they stay temporarily;
  • they must not be engaged in the provision of services within the framework of a contract concluded between a company with no commercial presence in the territory and a consumer of that territory.


Therefore, Chapter 10 of CETA makes it easier for European citizens to work in Canada and vice versa.





The following chapter 11 also contributes to the opening of new opportunities. The ratio of the chapter starts from the observation that some categories, such as architects, engineers, accountants, cannot practice their activities in Canada, because their qualifications are not recognized. The same applies to Canadian citizens in the EU. The agreement also addresses this issue, outlining a framework for negotiating agreements on mutual recognition of professional qualifications (MRAs-mutual recognition of professional qualifications), which will then be applied in the territory of the Member States. This drafting is headed by the Joint Committee on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRA Committee) which is composed of representatives of the government and must meet within one year of the entry into force of the CETA.


The Committee favors the drawing up of joint recommendations by professional bodies on possible agreements, including the assessment of potential impact, considering the level of market opening, the need for industry and business opportunities (such as the number of beneficiaries), as well as the expected earnings or economic developments. Chapter 11 draws inspiration for what concerns the MRA agreements from the 2008 Québec - France agreement: the guidelines of the negotiation process focus on the recognition of professional qualifications of groups rather than individuals. Last month a first meeting of the Committee was held in Brussels with the categories of architects. Overall, compared to previous trade agreements, the labour mobility regime is much more defined.


Finally, it should not be forgotten that the high standards of respect for the fundamental principles of worker protection are implemented by the mutual commitment of the parties. This ensures that posted workers will benefit from the laws of the host country.


Speaking of the CETA or the EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement, it is customary to underline how, in the uncertainty of the current geopolitical context, the states that share the same values consider it particularly useful to join forces through political agreements, but also, through commercial treaties, to counter protectionist tendencies and attempt to safeguard trade multilateralism endangered by the Trump administration's decisions.


Canada needs to diversify and follow the path of economic growth "beyond the US" and Ottawa shows that remains tied to the roots of European values. Europe has a strategic interest in international trade, playing an important role with an action that can reconfigure economic ties based on its own rules. In trade, Europe and Canada can express great potential. It seems that both sides are willing to carry on the belief that trade is a "positive affair", by creating in a sense a circle of friendly countries that want to safeguard commercial multilateralism.