EU, Canada finally sign free trade deal
BRUSSELS - ReutersFrench-speakers in southern Belgium, accounting for less than 1 percent of the 508 million EU consumers likely to be affected by CETA, raised objections that held up the deal until a breakthrough on Oct. 27 that was confirmed by regional parliamentary votes a day later. “All’s well that end’s well,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “We have 20 ongoing negotiations and today we are fixing the global standards the European Union and the European Commission want others to accept.”
The Canada agreement is seen as a springboard to a larger EU deal with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP), which has been the target of labor unions and environmental and other protest groups. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the TTIP talks were not dead, contrary to what some politicians in Germany and France have said, but would need to wait for the next U.S. president – taking office in January 2017 – to resume.
Supporters say CETA will increase Canadian-EU trade by 20 percent and boost the EU economy by 12 billion euros ($13 billion) a year and Canada’s by C$12 billion ($9 billion). For Canada the deal is important to reduce its reliance on the neighboring United States as an export market.
For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G-7 country and a success plucked from the jaws of defeat at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating from Britain’s vote in June to leave after 43 years of membership.
“A huge majority of people in Europe are in favor of Europe, but there are concerns and we need to engage with them,” Malmström said. “The commission cannot do that alone.”
Some 100 anti-globalization protesters clashed with police outside the venue in Brussels, trying to break down barriers in front of the main entrance and hurling red paint. A Reuters photographer saw police detain some people. The signing on Oct. 30 will not be the last act. Assuming the European Parliament gives its assent, CETA could come into force partially early next year. However, full implementation, which would include a contentious investment protection system, will ensue only after clearance by more than three dozen national and regional parliaments.