The group, which describes itself as a social action organisation, said history shows trade agreements harmonize standards and reduce regulations to the lowest common denominator.
It also outlined the regulatory differences between Canada and the EU that could jeopardize European food safety and production standards in a joint report.
The deal was agreed in 2014 and could be signed during the EU-Canada Summit on 27 October.
Positive EU message
There are similarities between CETA and the EU’s pending trade agreement with the US, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The European Commission said nearly 92% of EU agriculture and food products will be exported to Canada duty-free and it will scrap the majority of customs duties.
Report partners are:
War on Want (UK), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), Les Amis de la terre (France), ATTAC-Austria, Global 2000 (Austria), Via Campesina (Austria), IGO (Poland), Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung (Germany), Nature Friends (Greece), Insitute for Agricultural Trade Policy (Europe), Powershift (Germany) and ATTAC-Spain.
President Jean-Claude Juncker said it is the most progressive trade agreement and wants it to enter into force as soon as possible.
“It provides new opportunities for European companies, while promoting our high standards for the benefit of our citizens. I have looked at the legal arguments and I have listened to Heads of State or Government and to national Parliaments. Now it is time to deliver. The credibility of Europe's trade policy is at stake."
BEUC, the EU consumer organisation, said the concluded agreement does not meet the criteria of a trade agreement with a focus on consumer welfare, in a position paper earlier this year.
“Despite positive components, such as a voluntary cooperation on future regulatory cooperation, the agreement still contains provisions that could undermine current and future levels of protection for consumers.
“This agreement does not meet BEUC’s expectations from the perspective of an ambitious consumer policy.”
Under CETA, tariff rate quotas for Canadian meat increase to 80,000 tons of pork and 65,000 tons of beef and would be phased in over three to seven years. This was decided before Britain, Canada’s biggest export partner in the EU, voted to leave the European Union.
Through CETA, the EU and Canada want to reduce barriers to trade by minimizing rules for sanitary (human or animal life or health) and phytosanitary (plant life or health) regulations (SPS).
“This would be yet another blow for European farmers who will now be competing Canadian agribusiness with no animal welfare penalties and lower safety standards,” said Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians.
“Under [the North American Free Trade Agreement] NAFTA, Canada has shifted towards large-scale agricultural production with half of all food production coming from just five per cent of farms.”
With NAFTA, a deal between Mexico, the US and Canada, agricultural exports increased although farmers saw little gain in revenue, said the report.
The report details areas where Canada’s regulations are different than the EU’s, including genetically modified foods, pesticides, food dyes, chlorinated chicken and hormones.
The report said some food dyes allowed in Canada, but not in Europe, including Fast Green FCF and Citrus Red No. 2 (labelled as “restricted use” in EU). Allura Red, Ponceau SX, Brilliant Blue FCF, indigotine and tartrazine are banned in some EU member states.
Ractopamine, a beta agonist growth stimulant, is banned in the EU but permitted as a veterinary drug injected in cattle, swine and turkeys in Canada.
Canadian regulations allow beef and chicken to be washed and processed with chlorinated water, a process that is banned in the EU.
Mark Dearn, War on Want senior trade campaigner, said it cannot let food safety rules or the livelihoods of European farmers be traded away for the sake of Canadian agribusiness profits.
“For the UK this is of extra importance, as under CETA’s anti-democratic terms, we could still be open to being sued in corporate courts up to 20 years after leaving the EU.”