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Brussels parliament says it will not ratify CETA

Photo: Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region

The Brussels parliament says it will not ratify the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

The Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region is the 89-member governing body of the Brussels-Capital Region, one of the three regions of Belgium. The other two regions are the Flemish Region or Flanders, and the Walloon Region or Wallonia.

The Brussels Times reports, “The Brussels parliament will not give its green light to ratifying the present version of CETA… The parliament will not change its mind as long as several conditions remain unmet.”

According to the news report, those conditions appear to include demands for:

  • a human rights clause

  • a generic legally enforceable clause to guarantee compliance with the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

  • a clause on using so-called “positive lists” in the sphere of liberalization of services (that would exclude general interest services)

  • social and environmental clauses within public procurement

The July 8 vote on this draft resolution was 39 Yes, 24 No, 18 abstentions.

As we have previously noted in this campaign blog, the Parliament of Wallonia passed a resolution on April 28 opposing the ratification of CETA. The resolution called on the Walloon Government “not to grant full powers to the Federal Government [of Belgium] for signing the CETA between the European Union and Canada.”

Paul Magnette, the Minister-President of Wallonia, has stated, “As long as we do not have all the guarantees (of the future dispute settlement body and other red lines laid down by the Walloon Parliament), it will not be possible for us to ratify such a text, and it is not possible to give full powers to the Minister of Foreign Affairs” to sign CETA.

The resolution also called on the Walloon government to:

  • refuse any provisional implementation of the CETA but wait that all national ratification procedures be conducted in order to hear the voice of European citizens, before a possible entry into force of the Agreement

  • give priority, in the CETA, to a dispute resolution mechanism from state to state based on existing public courts

  • act towards the European institutions to ensure that all trade agreements concluded by the EU with third countries require compliance with the following [fourteen] red lines, which unfortunately are not complied with in CETA

On July 5, the European Commission agreed to pursue CETA as a “mixed” agreement, meaning the agreement would have to be ratified by the 27 (or 28 if you include the United Kingdom) EU member state national legislatures, as well as 14 regional parliaments (including the Brussels and Walloon parliaments). There is concern, however, that the European Commission could manipulate a “provisional application” of the deal this year in which only the European Parliament (the 751-member parliament) and the Council of the European Union (the 28 ministerial representatives of EU governments) would vote on the agreement before 90 per cent of it is implemented.

Key upcoming dates include:

  • October 18 – the Council of the European Union could vote on the provisional application of CETA

  • October 27-28 – Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau expected in Brussels to sign CETA at Canada-EU summit

  • November 29 – European Parliament International Trade Committee expected to vote on CETA

  • December 13-15 – CETA could go to European Parliament for plenary ratification vote

For a list of other European Union jurisdictions that have expressed concern or opposition to CETA, please click here.