EU Parliament Approves CETA

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been approved by European Parliament.   Approximately 58% of Members of European Parliament (MEP) voted in favour of it in Wednesday’s session in Strasbourg, France.

It was greeted favourably by both sides.  “This is a deal for the people,” International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told the CBC.  The trade deal is designed to offer consumers more choice, and lower costs.

“By adopting CETA, we chose openness, and growth, and high standards over protectionism and stagnation,” said Artis Pabriks of the European People’s Party.  He added: “Together we can build bridges, instead of a wall, for the prosperity of citizens.  CETA will be a lighthouse for future trade deals all over the world.”

The European Parliament is a 751 seat legislature.  695 Members of European Parliament (MEP) were present for the vote.  408 voted favour, 254 voted against it, and 33 abstained.

The vote came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepared to leave for Europe.  When asked what Canada had to gain, he responded: “Good jobs.  We know that trade leads to good middle-class jobs.”  Trudeau’s trip includes an address to European Parliament.

CETA Considered a “Watershed Moment” for European Trade

The deal decreases, or eliminates existing tariffs on a variety of products including agricultural products.  It creates common certification for goods, and services.  It harmonizes environmental, and labour standards between the two trading partners.

Protesters throughout Europe have pressured politicians to reject the deal.  They argued it was a threat to the EU’s sovereignty because it could allow Canadian subsidiaries of American companies to sue if regulations were passed that could hurt them.

“CETA is not the perfect deal, but we can look back and be very proud of what we achieved in this process, said  Scottish Labour MEP David Martin.  Canada, and the EU have been negotiating since 2009.  ” This is a watershed moment.  EU trade policy will never be the same,” Martin said.

CETA Provisional Application to Begin This Spring

The bill implementing CETA is known as C-30 in the House of Commons.  It passed third reading Tuesday in the House, with the Liberals and Conservatives voting together.  The Conservatives were in office when negotiations began.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May all opposed the deal.  “These trade deals, for the past several decades, have actually been reducing wages and working conditions for Canadian workers,” NDP leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday.  “We’re always being told that they’re great things, that they’re going to bring lots of jobs… I want Trudeau to start giving numbers,” he added.

Regulation changes will follow the legislation’s approval in the Senate.    Full implementation requires a vote in national, and regional parliaments across the European Union.  90% of CETA could be implemented as early as April 1, 2017.