Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

Local opposition to EU trade deals multiplies

  • Brussels. Assemblies want to prevent the federal government from signing the EU-Canada trade agreement (Photo: William Murphy)

The assembly of Brussels' French-speaking community on Friday (3 June) adopted a resolution aimed at preventing Belgium's federal government from signing an EU-Canada free trade agreement.

The vote is the latest in a series of moves by Belgian local assemblies, all of them French-speaking, against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that was concluded in February.

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Last month, the parliament of the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, which represents Belgium's French-speaking community adopted a similar resolution.

In April, the Parliament of Wallonia, one of Belgium's three self-governing entities, was the first to adopt such a text.

In all the resolutions, the deputies ask local authorities’ executive bodies to refuse to give the federal government the power to sign CETA.

They ask that the European Court of Justice is consulted on CETA's compatibility with the EU treaty.

 They also ask that the trade deal is ratified through the so-called mixed ratification process, which involves national parliaments in addition to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, where EU ministers meet.

The European Commission is expected to say in the coming weeks whether it proposes an EU-only or a mixed ratification.

CETA's formal signature is expected at an EU-Canada summit in autumn.

The Belgian votes come amid wider opposition to the pact.

Also on Friday, the Dutch parliament adopted a resolution asking the government to refuse any "provisional application” of CETA before the ratification process is completed.

Earlier this week, a group of German NGOs said they would go to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe to prove that the deal is against German law.

CETA is a precursor to the bigger and more strategic EU-US free trade treaty, TTIP, which is currently under discussion and which also faces broad opposition.

In Belgium, the parliament of the German-speaking community has adopted a resolution asking for suspension of TTIP talks.

In a similar development, Dutch people in April voted in a non-binding referendum to halt a EU-Ukraine free trade pact. NGOs are now organising petitions for referendums on CETA and TTIP.

Speaking at the European Business Summit in Brussels earlier this week, Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU trade commissioner in charge of CETA and TTIP, said local opposition is a menace to multilateral agreements.

“We can’t have local referendums on all trade agreements if we want to be serious,” she said, according to Politico.

“If we do that, we can close the shop,” she said.

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