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09/12/2016

Schulz makes a plea to back EU-Canada trade deal

Trade & Society

Schulz makes a plea to back EU-Canada trade deal

Martin Schulz at the Together Event in the European Parliament on 19 October

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European Parliament President Martin Schulz made a plea on Wednesday (19 October) to back the EU-Canada trade deal insisting it has the power to shape globalisation.

“CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] is a good agreement. Globalisation needs rules,” Schulz said, speaking at a Social Democrats event in the parliament.

The EU-Canada trade deal has run into trouble last week after Belgium’s Wallonia voted to block the deal.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs the EU summit in Brussels today (20 October), said he expected to find a solution during the meeting.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is supposed to stamp his signature in Brussels next week during the planned EU-Canada summit.

EU leaders face ‘credibility’ test with CETA

Belgium’s Wallonia region will be at the centre of attention when EU heads of states and government meet tomorrow and Friday (20-21 October), as the French-speaking region’s opposition to a proposed EU-Canada free trade agreement is expected to dominate summit talks.

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“If there is an error we can make today is not to vote for CETA,” Schulz argued.

“The government in Sweden (left supported by the greens), the government in Lisbon (supported by the left wing and communist party), the governments in Italy, France, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic–all socialist parties are in favour,” he explained.

“These are left wing leaders in Europe. We are in favour for it. This is a new kind of trade agreement which is introducing basic social rights in our trade relations.”

The President insisted that scrapping the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) and replacing it with public judges and an appeal mechanism is a move in the right direction.

Trying to back his support with better evidence, he recalled exchanges he had with trade unionists in Canada who begged him to ratify the trade agreement ‘because the core rules of the International Labour Organisation are now binding for Canada.’

Schulz did not hide his admiration for the current Canadian government and its leader. The Canadian government is led by a man who is one of the most inspiring personalities he has met in recent years, he said.

Schulz reflected on a talk he had with Trudeau in which the prime minister told him that Canadians wanted the deal to become ‘more European’.  They wanted the treaty because the European welfare system was a role model for them, Schulz noted.

Canadian envoy: To make CETA succeed, governments must redistribute wealth

Wealth created by trade needs to be evenly shared, so that everyone profits from it, Canada’s Ambassador to the EU, Daniel Costello, told EurActiv.com, ahead of a likely signing of the EU-Canada trade deal.

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Despite Wallonia’s rejection of CETA, Belgium’s federal government kept the door open to a compromise that could see the trade agreement signed during the EU-Canada summit next week. Wallonian deputies blocked the ratification process last week, citing concerns about the impact of the trade deal on public services and farmers.

Canada’s trade minister and EU ministers agreed on a legally binding additional declaration in late September to clarify the points which sparked public concerns.

Negotiations between Belgium’s federal government, Wallonian authorities and the European Commission intensified this week in order to find a solution.

“We all agree on how important the agreement is for Canada and the EU,” a senior EU official commented.

Opposition to free trade agreements, including CETA and the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), has grown over the past months in Europe. Citizens’ organisations and left-wing politicians warned in particular that the agreement could jeopardise EU’s safety, environmental or consumer protection standards.

Schulz spotted the perversity of the situation, saying that the EU was negotiating a similar agreement with Vietnam.

“It is an agreement  with the same content and it will be ratified. Do you think Vietnamese judges are more trustworthy than Canadian judges? I don’t think so,” he added.