Sunday

18th Nov 2018

EU-Canada trade deal faces final hurdles

  • Now all eyes are on Belgium and Germany on the fate of the Canada trade deal (Photo: Andre Skibinski)

Officials in Brussels are holding their breath over the fate of the Canada-EU trade agreement (Ceta), which diplomats say will decide the EU's future trade policy.

On Thursday (13 October) Germany's consitutional court is expected to rule on the legality of the agreement after three German NGOs presented a lawsuit in August signed by 125,000 people.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

They said the deal would undermine workers' rights and worsen consumer standards.

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, who last month secured the support of his restive Social Democratic Party (SPD) for the deal, warned on Wednesday that if the court rules in favour of the petitioners, "it would be a disaster for Europe."

An unexpected obstacle could also come from Belgium.

On Friday (14 October), the parliament of the Wallonia region will decide its stance on Ceta. Although the Belgian federal government has the final say on the deal, it needs the accord of its regions.

"We are in touch with our Belgian counterparts ... I don’t even try to understand fully what is going in all the parliaments in Belgium," said a senior EU diplomat.

According to EU rules, if member states disagree, then Ceta could be put to a vote by qualified majority in the EU Council.

Belgium could then be outvoted, but several officials told this website that because of the sensitivity of the issue, a unanimous decision would be needed.

VIsa constraints

Another issue that could upset the Ceta deal is Canada's visa requirements for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens.

Bulgaria and Canada have reached a political agreement on the issue, with a gradual lifting of visa requirements for Bulgarian citizens.

According to Bulgarian government sources quoted by Reuters, Canada will introduce a visa waiver for some Bulgarians, for example, for businessmen, for prior visitors to Canada, or for holders of a US visa as of May 2017 and will work to allow visa-free travel for all by the end of next year.

The timeline for the full visa liberalisation could be extended to May 2018, Bulgarian officials told Reuters.

It means Bulgaria would most likely give up its reluctance to back the Ceta agreement.

Talks with Romania are still ongoing. According to sources in Brussels, Bucharest would like to see visa-free travel for all its citizens without time limits.

"Canada remains committed to working collaboratively with Romania, Bulgaria, and the EU towards our mutual goal of visa-free travel between the EU member states and Canada," a statement by the Canadian representation to the EU said,

"It would be premature to comment on next steps at this time," it added.

Canada also pointed out that "Ceta remains a top priority", but recalled that "visa policy is not part of any of Canada’ s free trade agreements, and decisions on whether or not visas are necessary do not relate to trade."

Overcoming hurdles

EU officials hope all obstacles will be cleared in time for an EU-Canada summit to be held on 27 October, when prime minister Justin Trudeau travels to Brussels.

Ceta has become a crucial issue as the EU, after Brexit, wants to retain its position as a credible, global partner.

The EU is ready to go.

Trade ministers are planned to have an extraordinary meeting next Tuesday (18 October), where member states could sign off the agreement, which would then need to be ratified at national level.

"The negotiation work in Brussels is completed, we need a political green light from capitals," said the senior EU diplomat.

"It is a high a priority file for us, it is modern, important, a good agreement for the EU. By signing it, we can also show there is life in the EU trade policy," the diplomat said.

EU ambassadors on Wednesday "stabilised" all the texts needed for ratification. For the first time in trade deals, they agreed on a "joint interpretative declaration" clarifying the text of the agreement.

They also agreed on the details of its provisional application. That means, for example, that a controversial investment settlement court would not be created until member states had completed their national ratification process.

The European Parliament is ready to ratify it in its January 2017 plenary session at the latest.

The parliament's political groups agreed on Wednesday that the trade committe would vote on it on 5 December.

"It's not ideal, but in many way, it's the best and I would say very close to perfection," said the Ceta rapporteur, Artis Pabriks, a Latvian member of the centre-right EPP group.

Canada woos sceptical EU left on trade deal

Future of CETA largely hangs on the support of Europe’s social democrats. Canada’s trade minister has been touring hotspots of scepticism to convince them that the deal is progressive.

Interview

Canada trade deal is 'wrong enemy'

The EU's trade deal with Canada is coming under pressure from critics and member states, but the EP rapporteur argues supporters of protectionism are picking the wrong enemy.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Stakeholder

An open China brings opportunities to Europe

Some 60 years ago, the first major World Fair after World War II was held in Brussels. Sixty years on, China International Import Expo (CIIE), the first world expo dedicated to expanding imports, will open in Shanghai, China.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us