FRANCE, Strasbourg. The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which aims to boost goods and services trade and investment flows, was approved by the European Parliament with MEPs voting through the landmark deal. The deal was approved by 408 votes to 254, with 33 abstentions and could come into effect as early as April.
CETA is all about trade between Canada and the EU by removing tariffs on the majority of traded goods and services. It also provides for the mutual recognition of certification for a wide range of products. Canada is to open up its federal and municipal public procurement markets, which are already open in Europe and EU suppliers of services will get access to the Canadian market as part of the landmark deal.
There are some exceptions in the deal where tariff barriers will not be removed. These include public services, audiovisual and transport services and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs. As part of CETA, the EU secured protection for over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market.
There has been a lot of debate in the run-up to the deal surrounding how much power CETA would give to multinational companies with many questioning how governments would be able to legislate to protect health, the environment and safety. Allaying these concerns, says the EU, is the fact that both parties recognize this and have attached a joint declaration that its provisions apply without prejudice to the domestic right to regulate.
MEPs also gave their consent to the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA). Complementing the CETA, this deal aims to step up EU-Canada bilateral cooperation on a wide range of non-trade issues such as foreign and security policy, counter-terrorism, fighting organised crime, sustainable development, research and culture.
Major agricultural umbrella organization in the EU, Copa & Cogeca, welcomes MEPs approval of EU trade deal with Canada and calls for progress to be made in EU-Japan trade negotiations. Officials say CETA offers opportunities for the agri-food sector on both sides as long as trade is managed properly to avoid market disruption, calling CETA one of the most ambitious trade agreements on agriculture.
In contrast campaign group Slow Food condemns the approval of CETA, claiming is serves the interest of big industry, to the detriment of citizens and small producers. According to Slow Food, the EU parliament vote goes against a broad civil society coalition that called for a rejection of the deal in both Europe and Canada. The mobilization against CETA included the voices of 3.5 mill. people from all over Europe who have signed a petition against CETA and its twin agreement, the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Following the signing of CETA by EU and Canadian governments in October 2016 and votes in several European Parliament committees, the vote in the Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary was the final step in the EU-level ratification of CETA. Now, large parts of the deal will enter into force as of spring 2017, but the full agreement will only be implemented after ratification by parliaments in all 28 EU member states.