CETA Trade Agreement Gets Green Light from MEPs

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16 Feb 2017 --- The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which aims to boost goods and services trade and investment flows, was approved by the European Parliament on yesterday (February 15) with MEPs voting through the landmark deal.

 

CETA is all about trade between Canada and the EU by removing tariffs on the majority of traded goods and services. It also provides for the mutual recognition of certification for a wide range of products. 

Canada is to open up its federal and municipal public procurement markets, which are already open in Europe and EU suppliers of services will get access to the Canadian market as part of the landmark deal. 

The deal was approved by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions and could come into effect as early as April.

"By adopting CETA, we chose openness and growth and high standards over protectionism and stagnation. Canada is a country with whom we share common values and an ally we can rely on. Together we can build bridges, instead of a wall, for the prosperity of our citizens. CETA will be a lighthouse for future trade deals all over the world", Parliament’s rapporteur for the CETA agreement Artis Pabriks (EPP, LV) said after the vote.

There are some exceptions in the deal where tariff barriers will not be removed. These include public services, audiovisual and transport services and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs.

As part of CETA, the EU secured protection for over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market. 

There has been a lot of debate in the run-up to the deal surrounding how much power CETA would give to multinational companies with many questioning how governments would be able to legislate to protect health, the environment and safety. Allaying these concerns, says the EU, is the fact that both parties recognize this and have attached a joint declaration that its provisions apply without prejudice to the domestic right to regulate.

MEPs also gave their consent to the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Complementing the CETA, this deal aims to step up EU-Canada bilateral cooperation on a wide range of non-trade issues such as foreign and security policy, counter-terrorism, fighting organised crime, sustainable development, research and culture. The EU-Canada SPA was approved by 506 votes to 142, with 43 abstentions.

Major agricultural umbrella organization in the EU, Copa & Cogeca, welcomes MEPs approval of EU trade deal with Canada and calls for progress to be made in EU-Japan trade negotiations.
 
Officials say CETA offers opportunities for the agri-food sector on both sides as long as trade is managed properly to avoid market disruption, calling CETA one of the most ambitious trade agreements on agriculture.
 
Speaking in Brussels, Copa & Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka-Pesonen said: “In these turbulent times, the EU needs to send a clear message to the world that its single market remains open to the global economy as long as the level playing field is secured. In particular, we welcome the fact that our EU production and quality standards like Geographical Indications (GIs) and our safety standards (full traceability of cattle and hormone free beef) have been recognized under the agreement as this protects our quality products from imitations. 

“This is a good step forward for trade based on fair rules and now we are looking forward to other trade negotiations like between the EU and Japan.”
 
“We believe that the CETA agreement can deliver for both sides provided that it is managed properly and tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on imports of agricultural products are managed to avoid market failure. We welcome in particular the better access for EU dairy products and wine to the Canadian markets but we will remain vigilant especially vis a vis the increased market access for Canadian beef meat and pig meat to the EU under the deal. The prohibition of growth promoters is also good in beef production and “ractopamine free pig meat”, he added.  

In contrast campaign group Slow Food condemns the approval of CETA, claiming is serves the interest of big industry, to the detriment of citizens and small producers. 

According to Slow Food, the EU parliament vote goes against a broad civil society coalition that called for a rejection of the deal in both Europe and Canada. The mobilization against CETA included the voices of 3.5 million people from all over Europe who have signed a petition against CETA and its twin agreement, the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Carlo Petrini, Slow Food president, said: “International free trade agreements are pointless if they fail to raise (environmental and social) production standards to protect the interests of the small producers. This isn’t the case with CETA and it wasn’t the case with TTIP or TPP either. Nor will it be the case with other similar treaties in the future.”

“Signing them means waiving the regulatory and policy function that should be the prerogative of governments, thereby privatizing the decision-making processes too. To get a clearer idea of what’s involved: in Europe today there are about 1,300 food products with geographical indication, 2,800 wines and 330 spirits. As it is framed today, CETA would protect 173 of them.”

José Bové, Member of the European Parliament, went further: “The Free-Trade Agreement with Canada will have a very hard impact on European and Canadian peasants, particularly in difficult rural areas such as mountain regions. I am afraid that some quality food products will be heavily penalized by a false protection of PDOs.”

“Large companies and multinationals are the winners of this deal. This vote is a failure, but the battle continues because CETA must now be ratified by the 28 member states. The struggle at the European level must be multiplied in each individual country.”

“I am convinced that halting all bilateral negotiations and reviving multilateral negotiations that take social and environmental rights into account, especially on the issue of the climate, is extremely urgent.” 

Following the signing of CETA by EU and Canadian governments in October 2016 and votes in several European Parliament committees, yesterday vote in the Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary was the final step in the EU-level ratification of CETA. 

Now, large parts of the deal will enter into force as of spring 2017, but the full agreement will only be implemented after ratification by parliaments in all 28 EU member states.

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