Trade MEPs give green light to Canada-EU trade deal CETA

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

CETA will now likely be passed next month in the final plenary vote ©iStock
CETA will now likely be passed next month in the final plenary vote ©iStock

Related tags European union International trade

The EU Trade Committee (INTA) has approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) this morning, marking a major step toward the deal between EU and Canada becoming reality.

The EU now looks poised to move into an agreement which could revolutionise the European food industry.

The vote passed through INTA with 25 votes to 15 and one abstention. The agreement now rests on a final plenary vote in Strasbourg next month.

The agreement, the details of which were concluded after five years of negotiations in 2014, will remove almost all trade tariffs between the EU and Canada.

Currently import and export between the EU and Canada is worth over €60 billion and is expected to rise by at least 20% after the deal is implemented.

Rapporteur for CETA Artis Pabriks said before the vote: “By approving CETA today we take a significant step forward. In the face of rising protectionism and populism, Parliament is able and willing to act on behalf of European citizens.

"I stand for a strong and global Europe and for open markets. Ratifying this agreement with Canada will enable trade to continue to bring wealth to both shores of our transatlantic friendship.  The duty of our governments is to ensure that each and every one of us benefits from this wealth.”

‘Power grab’

Since the close of negotiations in 2014, thousands of organisations have joined a protest against the deal, saying CETA will grant multinational corporations sweeping powers that would erode measures preventing environmental protection, public health and workers' rights.

Greenpeace, a signatory of last year’s protest letter​, released a statement this morning saying: “After years of indoctrination on this new breed of investment protection deal, many politicians are reluctant to stick their necks out. They label any criticism as a capitulation to populism, but an honest look at the evidence would force them to recognise that multinationals are gearing up for an assault on nature, on our health and on social rights. MEPs have one last chance in February to reject this corporate power grab.”

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has expressed serious concern over the implications of the agreement for public diet.

Ever increasing measures against foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) could be eroded under the agreement, which guarantees corporations the right to sue governments for interfering with or damaging their expected profits.

In what is called the Investor to State dispute settlement clause (ISDS) cases can be brought against governments over, for example, advertising restrictions on HFFS ads to children.

Such cases have already cost the Canadian government over €225 million under the NAFTA agreement, which also contains an ISDS clause, rendering it the most sued government of a developed country on earth.

Canadian protesters have detailed the negative effects of NAFTA in their fight against CETA. 

Germany-based industry watch dog Foodwatch, agreed, telling FoodNavigator: 

"The CETA-approval by the INTA committee is above all inconsequential. Not long ago the Members of European Parliament made strict demands on the transatlantic trade deal TTIP. With CETA - the supposedly "better agreement" – a number of these demands are not fulfilled: The European-Canadian treaty puts the autonomy of EU legislation at risk, threatens the European precautionary principle and establishes a parallel justice system for big business.

"These threats to democracy were a deal-breaker for TTIP. For CETA, they play no role at all. The plenary of the European parliament must now stand by its word and say 'No' to CETA." 

Profit for everyone? 

Not all voices within the EU are opposed to the agreement, as the outcome of the vote made clear. A official EU report detailing the benefits of CETA stated it would create new jobs, lower prices and increase consumer choice. 

FoodDrinkEurope, a trade group representing the European food industry, said that "CETA is one of the most ambitious and progressive trade deals ever negotiated". 

Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström tweeted: 

The FoodDrinkFederation, a trade group representing the UK's food and drink industry, concurred with FoodDrinkEurope, telling us:

"We welcome the International Trade Committee’s decision [...] This should provide a significant boost for exporters as UK food and drink becomes more competitive in the Canadian market. Imports of essential raw materials from Canada would similarly benefit from tariff reductions, helping businesses that have already faced costlier imports as a result of a weaker pound. FDF’s latest exports snapshot shows that Canada is the UK’s 15th​ largest export market. Application of CETA would provide a welcome boost to already strong exports of food and drink which saw growth of 28% over the first three quarters of 2016 to more than £134m (€155m), the majority of which was high-value branded goods.”

The vote comes less than a day after President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the similar trade agreement the Trans-Pacific Oartnership TPP. 

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