EU parliament backs Ceta trade pact amid angry protests 


‘Toxic corporate trade pact’ between the EU and Canada passed by parliament 

CAMPAIGNERS HAVE CONDEMNED EU POLITICAL leaders for backing the much-protested ‘Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement’ (Ceta) between the EU and Canada. 

MEPs backed the deal by 408 votes to 254 amid a frenzy of protests and cries of opposition at the EU plenary session in Strasbourg today (Wednesday 15 February).  MEPs held up signs in opposition and chanted ‘Stop Ceta!’ as votes were called. 

The vote follows seven years of preparation for the final trade deal, and over three million signatures in opposition from EU citizens. Ceta has been described as the little brother of equally opposed US-EU trade deal ‘TTIP’, which looks to have collapsed following widespread opposition last year. 

Warning over both big business trade deals has focused on potential threats to economic, environmental, and social wellbeing – and the risk of increasing corporate legal power to impede government legislation. 

However, the EU commission and some social democrat MEPs welcomed the deal as an example of ‘progressive’ trade legislation. 

Greens/EFA co-president Ska Keller said: “The European movement for fair trade is a huge success. They did not win today, but the large mobilisation is a major achievement nonetheless. It is a testament to the tireless campaigning of civil society that the majority in favour of Ceta in the European Parliament has been considerably reduced. 

“We believe that the momentum against Ceta will have an impact on the ratification process at member state level, the struggle is not over yet. This deal already belongs to a past era of non-transparent trade deals, but Europe’s future relationship with Canada can still be a positive and progressive force in the world.”

Responding to the news, Nick Dearden, the director of Global Justice Now, added: “Over three million people across Europe signed a petition calling for Ceta to be scrapped, while hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of cities like Berlin saying they wanted no part of this toxic trade deal. 

While the EU Parliament has to consent to trade pacts, the European Commission, EU Council of Ministers, and EU Council of state leaders all have influence in dictating the overall direction of European trade policy. 

“So it’s shameful that so many MEPs in voting for Ceta have come down in favour of the army of corporate lobbyists that have been howling for this deal rather than the voices of the ordinary people that they are supposed to represent. This trade deal will have terrible impacts on our public services, labour rights and consumer standards, so it is crucial that Liam Fox [Tory trade minister] stops thwarting democratic process and that proper scrutiny and debate of Ceta takes places for UK MPs.”

Scottish MEPs were split with Labour and Tory MEPs supporting the deal, with the SNP’s two MEPs opposed. 

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, however, welcomed the deal: “Today’s vote by the European Parliament is an important milestone in the democratic process of ratification of the agreement reached with Canada and it also allows for its provisional entry into force. As a result, EU companies and citizens will start to reap the benefits that the agreement offers as soon as possible. 

“This trade deal has been subject to an in-depth parliamentary scrutiny which reflects the increased interest of citizens in trade policy. The intense exchanges on CETA throughout this process are testimony to the democratic nature of European decision making.

“This progressive agreement is an opportunity to shape globalisation together and influence the setting of global trade rules. The best example of this is the work that we are already doing with our Canadian friends to establish multilateral rules to deal with investment issues.

“I now call on all member states to conduct an inclusive and thorough discussion at national level with the relevant stakeholders in the context of the national ratification process of the agreement.”

While the EU Parliament has to consent to trade pacts, the European Commission, EU Council of Ministers, and EU Council of state leaders all have influence in dictating the overall direction of European trade policy. 

While within the UK, the Scottish position on trade is represented by the right-wing Tory government as part of foreign policy discussions. 

Picture courtesy of Global Justice Now 

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