EU Parliament approves controversial Canada trade deal
European politicians vote to adopt Ceta by 408-254 after months of protests
An inflatable Trojan horse stands in front of the European Parliament during a protest against the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada, in Strasbourg, France. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA
The EU and Canada secured clearance on Wednesday for their contentious free trade deal and the removal of import duties, which supporters say will boost growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
The two parties can claim success for their open markets policy following months of protests and uncertainty.
European Parliament lawmakers backed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) by 408-254, meaning large parts of the deal, notably tariff reduction, will finally enter into force some eight years after negotiations began.
European trade unions and protest groups object to the pact, saying it will lead to a race to the bottom in labour and environmental standards and allow multinational corporations to dictate public policy.
The chief point of contention is the deal’s system for protecting foreign investors, which critics say can lead to cases such as Philip Morris International’s unsuccessful challenge of plain tobacco packaging in Australia.
Supporters say the right to regulate is enshrined in the treaty and Ceta will replace closed arbitration panels with transparent and independent courts to settle disputes.
In Ottawa, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that “when you put forward a progressive trade deal that takes into account the responsibility of governments to create . . . inclusive growth, we can move forward on globalisation”.
Mr Trudeau is due to address the EU Parliament on Thursday.
Canada’s house of commons on Tuesday passed legislation to adopt Ceta.
The Canadian upper senate chamber will now study the proposed law. Officials say they expect final approval next month.
Full implementation of Ceta, including investment, will only ensue after clearance by more than three dozen national and regional parliaments, which is by no means a certainty.
Backers say Ceta will increase Canadian-EU trade by 20 per cent and boost the EU economy by €12 billion a year.
For Canada, the deal is important to reduce its reliance on the US as an export market.
For the EU, it is the first trade pact with a G7 country and a success at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating.