Canada trade deal is 'wrong enemy'
By Eszter Zalan
Europe risks its status as a global player if it fails to agree the CETA trade deal with Canada, the European Parliament's rapporteur for the issue told EUobserver.
Artis Pabriks was speaking before EU 27 leaders meet in Bratislava on Friday (16 September) to find common ground after Brexit.
One senior EU official said leaders “should be rebuilding consensus on trade policy” as heads of government attempt to provide protection from the negative effects of globalisation.
While there is increasing opposition to the American trade deal, TTIP, “CETA is a very significant test for Europe”, the official said.
The European Commission hopes EU countries will authorise it to sign the deal before October when Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau travels to Brussels.
A provisional application of the deal after it is signed and before ratification by member states is still under discussion.
In the European Parliament the socialists have been divided on the issue.
The Latvian EPP politician told this website: “Canada is a country with which we have extremely similar values, similar interests. I really do wonder - if we can't make a smooth deal with them, then for God’s sake who can we do a deal with?"
“I would say Canada for then EU is a closer partner, than some EU countries to other EU countries."
Pabriks said he hoped socialist MEPs would come on board by December or at least by early next year. A vote on the idea in the plenary could take place in December or in the first two months of 2017.
“If we want to show that European institutions and Europe are a serious global partner and a serious global player, then I don’t see hindrances to pass this deal still within this year in EP,” he argued.
“It is a question of political will.”
The rapporteur argues that provisional application of the deal should start as soon as the EP has voted on it.
Addressing the issue of Canadian visa requirements for Romania and Bulgaria, which has put ratification into question in those two countries, Pabriks said he was confident Canada would make a “positive step” soon.
Pabriks, a former defence and foreign affairs minister, added that players outside the EU, like Russia, are skilfully using these discussions “in order to blow up transatlantic connections”.
Asked about the concerns surrounding the investment courts, which will give companies the right to sue governments, Pabriks said the courts set up in CETA would be an international system with independent judges, and that states were perfectly capable of winning cases.
He said opponents of the agreement should study its 1,500 pages as it is available online.
“Once we adopt it, people will see it is not endangering their lives," he said, adding that one should not overestimate its impact.
Pabriks said there would be a €12 billion increase in trade, and the deal would open up Canada for European small and medium-size businesses.
It would also help to set higher standards in international trade, making it possible for the EU to request higher standards from other partners, like China or India.
He acknowledged that increasing opposition to the US-EU trade deal, TTIP, with French president Francois Hollande adding his voice to chorus recently, has an effect on discussion over CETA.
“Those who want to kill TTIP, also want to kill CETA,” Pabriks said.
But he advised national politicians not to give into populism, and not promise voters an end to trade deals.
“I know how difficult it is to go for elections. But I still would say, trying to fish for votes with such announcements, like TTIP is dead, will not be really appreciated by the end by voters,” he said.
Pabriks said he understood the concerns over globalisation, but that EU countries would be wrong to choose protectionism and building fences and walls.
“The problem is we are trying to figure out a way to protect ourselves within a changing world, but we are picking the wrong enemies. International trade is neither enemy, nor forbidding international trade will solve the global problems,” he said.