Canada ratification upsets Macron’s promises on CETA

Justin Trudeau addressing MEPs in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. [European Parliament]

Canada’s ratification of CETA on 17 May opens the door to a provisional application of the free trade agreement in the coming weeks. But it places Emmanuel Macron’s promise to establish an expert committee to evaluate the impact of the deal on shaky ground. EURACTIV France reports.

The EU’s controversial free trade agreement with Canada could effectively enter into force in a matter of weeks.

Already ratified by the European institutions in February, CETA was finally adopted by Canada on 17 May. This was the last obstacle to the deal’s provisional entry into force, pending ratification by the EU’s national and regional parliaments.

According to the text adopted, the trade agreement should enter into force one month after its adoption (17 June) but so far, no date had been specified.

In Europe, where opposition from politicians and civil society was strong, this latest development has provoked a flurry of activity from concerned parties.

Blockage

In France, 110 MPs have demanded the opinion of the Constitutional Council on the legality of CETA. A ruling is due this summer. And Belgium, whose calls for additional guarantees had led to a confrontation with Brussels, has promised to take its concerns to the Court of Justice of the European Union in the coming weeks.

Most recently, it is France’s new President Emmanuel Macron who has put the issue back on the negotiating table, promising in the last days of his presidential campaign to set up an expert committee to examine the CETA agreement before ratification.

CETA clears crucial hurdle in Parliament's trade committee

The EU’s trade agreement with Canada cleared a crucial hurdle today (24 January) when it was approved by the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, making way for the deal to be sent to a vote in the entire 751-seat chamber next month.

This committee was due to be established in the three months following the election, to focus particular attention on the environmental consequences of the deal. Macron said he would then ask his European partners to modify it according to the committee’s findings.

But with the entry into force of the agreement now on the horizon, the president may not have time to bring his plan to fruition.

“There are still a few secondary acts to be adopted in Canada, but the provisional application of the deal should begin on 1 June, or 14 July, or at least before the decision from the Constitutional Court,” warned Mathilde Dupré, a specialist at the Veblen Institute.

“In order to be seen as credible and relevant, the creation of this committee and the decisions resulting from it must come before the provisional entry into force of the agreement,” several NGOs said in a statement.

Macron pushes republican values, attacks National Front's 'lies'

At a rally of some 12,000 people in Paris yesterday (1 May), the presidential frontrunner confirmed his anti-National Front stance, denounced the illiberal regimes in Hungary, Poland and Russia and promised a new approach to CETA. EURACTIV France reports.

Macron is due to raise the subject when he meets Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G7 summit in Italy today (26 May).

“Emmanuel Macron will explain the objectives of the committee he hopes to establish, to ensure it is not misinterpreted,” said a source close to the president.

A provisional entry into force, before the EU’s 38 competent parliaments have the final say, would include the vast majority of the measures foreseen under CETA,.

The ratification process could take years. And just one negative vote would be enough to block the whole agreement.

So far, only Latvia has completed the process, although a number of others including Finland, Denmark and Lithuania have said they want to complete it as soon as possible.

French attempts to delay CETA brushed aside

A group of French MPs have asked President François Hollande to delay the entry into force of CETA, the EU’s free trade deal with Canada, until France’s top court has passed judgement on its constitutionality. But Hollande is unmoved by their concerns. EURACTIV France reports.