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Canadian trade minister pushes for CETA ratification before the UK leaves Europe

250,000 people protested against CETA and TTIP in Berlin in October 2015. Canadian trade minister Freeland claims there’s not the slightest “whisper” of discontent over the agreement in Europe.

Canadian trade minister Chrystia Freeland continues to seek the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) despite the Brexit vote on June 23, massive opposition to the agreement in Europe, and the lack of an evaluative study on an EU ‘free trade’ deal that would now exclude the second largest European economy.

CBC reports, “In the aftermath of last week’s surprising Brexit vote, the European Union is even more determined to sign a free trade agreement with Canada, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says, and there’s not the slightest ‘whisper’ of discontent over the massive deal.” In making this comment, Freeland ignores the 2,966,876 Europeans (plus 517,916 people in the United Kingdom) who have signed a petition calling for CETA not to be ratified. She is also marginalizing the growing number of European jurisdictions who have expressed deep concerns about CETA.

Freeland says she expects CETA to be signed before the UK invokes Article 50, which would begin a two-year process for that country’s separation from the EU. Freeland says, “It seems quite possible to me that CETA will be … certainly signed, and very likely ratified, even before Article 50 is invoked. And very, very likely to go into force while Britain is still part of Europe.” And according to a Bloomberg news report, Freeland says, “CETA ratification is on a much faster track. We’re anticipating that CETA will be signed in the fall and will be ratified early next year. There has been absolutely no interest — none at all — from any of our European counterparts in reopening CETA in any way.”

Trudeau is currently scheduled to sign CETA at a Canada-EU summit on October 27 in Brussels. The expectation is that the European Parliament could vote on CETA in November-December of this year or January-February of 2017.

If the agreement is deemed to be a mixed agreement (within the jurisdiction of both the EU and its member state countries), then ratification votes in the now 27-member state legislatures would take place in the months following that vote. If the agreement is seen as an “EU-only” agreement, the Foreign Affairs Council (the trade ministers from the EU member state countries) would simply vote on it in Brussels. A decision on that could come as early as this July.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who will be stepping down at the time of the British Conservative Party convention this coming October 2-5, has not yet indicated when the UK will invoke Article 50 (other than that it won’t happen until a new prime minister is in place). European leaders have indicated there will be no formal Brexit talks until Article 50 is invoked, but have also stated that it should be done soon to avoid a prolonged period of uncertainty.

But while Freeland is now saying CETA “is on a much faster track”, last week the CBC reported, “Votes in the European Parliament in Brussels can be unpredictable. Freeland has been open about the need for Canada to keep lobbying to overcome resistance to ratifying in some countries. Her campaign — and she calls it that — may be made longer, or harder, with a Brexit.”

And various analysts have commented that following the Brexit vote, CETA is “in a holding pattern”, “scuttled” or even “probably dead”.

The Council of Canadians is calling on for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to conduct an independent analysis of CETA minus the United Kingdom. The CBC has previously reported, “Canada does far more business with the UK than other EU countries”, “CETA was based on tradeoffs and calculations that included British consumers and businesses — compromises that were sometimes painful and prolonged”, and the UK represents about 10 per cent of the beef sector Canada was hoping to gain with the deal (a major selling-point for the agreement). In addition, the Brexit vote has now removed the second largest economy from the CETA equation.

For more on our campaign to stop CETA, please click here.