Two weeks before the crucial vote on the EU’s free trade deal with Canada (CETA), French Socialist MEPs have called on their European Parliament colleagues to hold a deep debate on the subject. EURACTIV France reports.
After a tortuous national ratification process, the EU-Canada trade deal is finally on the home straight. The European Parliament is due to ratify the agreement in Strasbourg on 15 February, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will even be present for the occasion.
But before this final hurdle is cleared, the Parliament’s French Socialist Party (PS) delegation wants its Socialists and Democrats (S&D group) colleagues to hold debate a “fair approach to trade, to define together a new doctrine for international trade”.
They argue that the group’s split voting record on the issue in the parliamentary committees needs to be addressed. Chapters such as regulatory cooperation are still too vague, the MEPs said, and risk undermining EU countries’ rights to legislate.
The EU’s impact assessment on CETA did not foresee a net gain in jobs for the EU, and other studies have even predicted that the deal will be strongly damaging to the European labour market. This is why the Parliament’s employment committee rejected the agreement.
Echoing widespread hostility to the free trade deal from citizens and civil society organisations, which say CETA give too much power to corporations, the French Socialists hope to make the S&D group withdraw its support for the agreement.
The PS delegation said it is the “avant-garde of a regulated globalisation that benefits everyone” and took care to distance itself from the protectionism of US President Donald Trump or the liberalism of ex-Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
If the Parliament votes in favour of the free trade agreement, it will enter into force with immediate effect.
The mixed agreement and civil society
As a mixed agreement, CETA has to be ratified by the European Parliament and all the EU’s national parliaments. If one parliament rejects it, the process will stall. But strong opposition in a number of member states could tip the balance.
In Austria, for example, a petition against the EU’s free trade agreements has collected over 550,000 signatures, more than 8% of the population.
Supported across the political spectrum, from the extreme right Freedom Party (FPÖ) to the governing Social Democrats and the Greens, the petition calls for the introduction of a law prohibiting the “signing, approval or conclusion” of these agreements.
The petition crossed the threshold of 100,000 signatures needed to force a debate in the Austrian parliament.
French MPs on Thursday (2 February) examined a resolution proposing that CETA be ratified not by parliamentary vote but by referendum. If it passes, this bill could prove a serious obstacle for CETA.
Across the Channel, the tone is quite different. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is banking on CETA to “avoid the cliff-edge” of Brexit. He hopes to negotiate a transitional adoption for the UK before it leaves the EU. And if it is not adopted by the EU-28 before the UK leaves the bloc, the deal will constitute “an excellent starting point for a future bilateral agreement” between London and Ottawa, Fox said.