EU Parliament backs controversial CETA trade deal
EU-Canada trade pact sets standard for future trade agreements, says rapporteur Artis Pabriks.
CETA was approved by MEPs in Strasbourg by 408 votes to 254 | Photo credit: Fotolia
The landmark EU-Canada trade deal approved on Wednesday by the European Parliament “sets an international standard”, said the MEP who has steered the legislature through the institution.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is the most detailed ever signed between the EU and a developed nation.
CETA was approved by MEPs in Strasbourg by 408 votes to 254.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau will address MEPs on the deal and on other issues in a showpiece speech to parliament on Thursday.
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Speaking at a news conference in Strasbourg after the vote, Latvian EPP member Artis Pabriks said, “This is an open and progressive trade deal and sets a standard for future trade agreements.”
In an indirect swipe at new US President Donald Trump’s perceived protectionism, the deputy, who is parliament’s rapporteur on the deal, told reporters, “It is especially important because we live in an age full of fake news and empty promises. I am glad we made this deal with Canada and not someone else.”
EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, speaking at the same news conference, hailed the signing of what she called a “landmark” trade deal which would “open up cooperation” between the two sides.
She accepted that there had been some opposition to the deal, saying, “It has been said that CETA will lead to a lowering of standards in, for instance, labour rights. I am here today to say that this is not the case.”
“This is a win-win trade deal and not a “I win, you lose” deal. We are here to build bridges, not walls.”
Another speaker, German Socialist Bernd Lange, who chairs the European Parliament’s international trade committee, also welcomed the outcome, saying, “We were aware of citizens’ concerns over CETA, particularly on labour rights, but we have tried to address these. This was very important, but this is a good deal.”
Further reaction came from British ECR group MEP Emma McClarkin who said the deal will be worth €1bn a year to Britain alone.
McClarkin said: "After seven long years the champions of free trade have battled through.
"This is a great deal in terms of reducing barriers, improving access to markets, delivering for jobs and growth and making it easier for small businesses to trade in the Canadian market.”
Industry also greeted the agreement, with Paul Skehan, the director general of spiritsEUROPE, saying, “We are delighted with this decision. We believe it is a correct decision, and one which will bring obvious benefits to both the European and Canadian consumers and businesses. It has been a difficult debate for many, with many emotional arguments made, both for and against.”
He added, “On balance, however, we feel that this decision to approve CETA is the right one. Our distillers now look forward to quick provisional implementation of the deal, so that the advantages can accrue as quickly as possible.”
Carl Martin Welcker, president of the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, said the trade deal “represents an important signal against isolationism, and in favour of open markets. Domestic companies, their employees and consumers all benefit from free trade.
“The majority in the European Parliament in favour of CETA shows that Europe genuinely wants this agreement. It’s also a signal against the rise of protectionism around the world. The vote in the Parliament also underlines the democratic nature of the arrangement.
He added, “The important thing now is for the EU to act swiftly to implement the parts of the agreement that lie in its area of competence. Even so, we must not forget just how difficult the CETA negotiations were.
“In future, the division of responsibilities between the EU as a whole and its member states must be made clearer. Europe must remain capable of concluding comprehensive trade agreements with important partner countries on future occasions.”
But there were some dissenting voices, with UKIP trade spokesman, William Dartmouth saying, “UKIP voted against CETA because there were no safeguards for the NHS and we are opposed to supranational courts.”
The UK MEP added, “UKIP are in favour of free trade but we cannot allow our government and our small businesses to be coerced and bullied by global corporations who would have an unfair advantage under the CETA regime.”
EU leaders on Friday were digesting an offer from UK Prime Minister Theresa May that would allow about three million EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit.
Negotiations on the UK’s departure from the EU will start on Monday, it has been confirmed.
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