Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

  • Canadian PM Trudeau last October signed the deal with the EU's leaders (Photo: Consilium)

MEPs are expected to approve Ceta, the EU-Canada trade agreement, on Wednesday (15 February), amid concerns about the US administration’s trade protectionism.

“I’m grateful for [US president] Trump. His attitude toward global trade opened the eyes, and urged sceptics to think twice,” Artis Pabriks, a centre-right Latvian MEP and the parliament's rapporteur for Ceta, told this website.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The new US president has pulled out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) with 11 countries and has been an opponent of TTIP, the EU-US trade deal under discussion.

“It’s a litmus test for the future of European Union,” Pabriks said, adding that it will show whether Europeans “are willing to join those who preach protectionism, who are willing build walls, who are willing to look inwards, or if [they] are the ones who want to go forward, it is the only way to go out of these challenges”.

Pabriks also argued that if Ceta fails, it would be difficult for the EU to conclude any other free trade agreement.

As Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau travels to Strasbourg to deliver a speech on Thursday (16 February), the EU and Canada are eager to show they still promote open and free global trade.

Trade, a non-controversial aspect of the EU’s powers for decades, has come under attack from populists, who argue that globalisation have hurt local labour force, as well as from transparency, labour right and environment advocates, who have said the EU’s trade deals are too opaque and threaten European standards.

Concerns remain

Centre-right, liberal and conservative MEPs are expected to vote in favour of the accord, which the European Commission says will increase the EU GDP by €12 billion each year .

The social-democratic group also decided on Tuesday evening to back Ceta, despite opposition to the deal from the French, Belgian and Austrian delegations. Its leader Gianni Pittella argued that Ceta represents a key step forward.

However, strong concerns remain over the deal, especially with regards to labour and environmental standards, and the controversial investment court system, which is aimed at protecting investors if they think that state regulation might hurt their profits.

The Greens have said they would vote against the deal.

“The reforms [that have been implemented in the deal] are very small,” Ska Keller, co-chair of the Greens in the EP told journalists.

“An investor can still sue a government if its profits are hurt, but I cannot go to a court if my rights were harmed by an investor,” she argued, adding that national courts could also deal with investors’ complaints, and that there is "no need for a special tribunal".

Wait and see

While most of the accord’s chapters will come into force as early as April, provisional application means that for instance the investment court system, designed to protect investors, will not go into effect just yet.

Ceta still needs to be ratified by all EU national parliaments to enter into full force, a process that might take years.

Belgium, whose French-speaking Wallonia region’s 11th hour opposition to the deal almost derailed the accord last year, will turn to the EU’s top court to check if the court system is in line with EU law.

Pabriks argued that Belgium and other countries should wait a year of the provisional application before their national parliaments vote, to see that the deal delivers “good things”.

“I promise they will see only positive things, and maybe they will lose an appetite to use it for their internal political games,” he said of the Belgium’s plans to go to court.

Ceta has been seen as a possible template for the US-EU free trade deal, which has been under discussion for three years but is now most likely to never materialise under the Trump administration.

However, opponents argue that Ceta could still be used as a basis for other trade deals, a cause for concern for them.

Not everybody is in a celebratory mood.

Philippe Lamberts, the co-chair of the Green group said that Trudeau did not agree that leaders of the political groups intervene after his speech in the EP.

“Mr. Nice Guy doesn’t want to risk anybody in the assembly anybody contradicting him, he focuses on image more than on content,” Lamberts said.

Opinion

Unfair EU-Canada trade deal is wrong response to Trump

The EU-Canada trade deal, which is to be voted on in the European Parliament next week, cements the inequalities, political exclusion and favours to corporations that feed far-right groups in Europe.

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.

MEPs approve Canada trade deal amid protest

Amid protests in front of the European Parliament's Strasbourg building and after heated debate among MEPs, the landmark trade deal with Canada was approved with a comfortable majority.

Rome summit tries to restart EU momentum

EU 27 leaders in Rome to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of Treaty of Rome, in bid to counter rising challenges after Brexit. But new ideas are scarce.

News in Brief

  1. Uber pulls out of Denmark over new taxi-regulation
  2. EU court validates sanctions on Russia's Rosneft
  3. Luxembourg to team up with Ireland in Apple tax appeal
  4. EU majority against GM crops, but not enough to block them
  5. Turkish referendum voting starts in Europe
  6. Le Pen says she lacks election funds
  7. UN dinner for Cyprus leaders to restart stalled peace talks
  8. Nato moves summit forward so US can attend

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  2. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  3. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  4. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  5. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  6. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  8. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  9. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  10. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  12. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans