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CETA heads to European Parliament vote on February 15

Today’s vote at the European Parliament’s International Trade committee.

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) moved closer to a plenary vote in the 751-member European Parliament today when the parliament’s International Trade committee voted in favour of the agreement.

The Associated Press reports, “The trade agreement between the European Union and Canada has cleared a big hurdle in the EU’s parliament when the trade committee backed the deal and prepared it for full ratification next month. The trade committee backed it by a 25-15 margin with one abstention on Tuesday.”

Latvian Member of the European Parliament Artis Pabriks says, “In the face of rising protectionism and populism, parliament is able and willing to act on behalf of European citizens.” But Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser Shira Stanton responds, “They label any criticism as a capitulation to populism, but an honest look at the evidence would force them to recognise that multinationals are gearing up for an assault on nature, on our health and on social rights.”

In December 2016, the parliament’s employment committee voted against the deal saying it risked job losses and increased inequality, while earlier this month the parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee voted 40 to 24 for a motion saying the European Parliament should back the deal.

The deal can be provisionally applied if it now passes in the European Parliament, but it still faces ratification votes in 38 national and regional parliaments. That process could take up to five years.

Just after the signing of CETA on October 30, 2016, The Globe and Mail reported, “[It has] emerged [that CETA] could be scrapped at any time before final ratification… Final ratification is still required by the European Parliament and the legislatures in each EU member country… The EU and Belgium have now agreed that any one of Belgium’s [three] regions can scrap CETA at any time before the final ratification vote if MPs don’t believe CETA is working… That would effectively kill the treaty because it would mean Belgium couldn’t ratify it.”

A referendum on CETA may also take place in the Netherlands this year. The Guardian has reported, “Activists in the Netherlands have gathered almost two-thirds of the signatures needed to lay the groundwork for a referendum on [CETA]. The petition can only be launched once parliament has ratified the deal, something that is not expected before parliamentary elections due in March 2017.”

In December 2016, a European Court of Justice advocate general wrote that ‘free trade’ agreements must be ratified by all thirty-eight national and regional parliaments in the European Union. The Luxembourg-based court will publish its final ruling in three to six months, but it follows the views of advocate generals in a majority of cases. That ruling – expected sometime between March and June – would then confirm that EU member states (and regions) other than Belgium could still scuttle CETA.

The Council of Canadians is continuing its campaign to stop CETA. We see the opportunity to defeat CETA not in the European Parliament but in the upcoming votes in the European Union member states’ regional and national parliaments.