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EU MEPs Debate Canada Trade Deal

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

14 October 2016

Members of the European Parliament's International Trade Committee have debated the proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, ahead of a crucial vote in December.

CETA can only enter into force with the European Parliament's approval. The Committee will vote on CETA in December. Committee Chair Bernd Lange stressed that there "would be no preliminary application of any part of this agreement at all before the European Parliament has given its green light."

Promoting the agreement, rapporteur Artis Pabriks said the deal "is important geopolitically as well as economically." He argued: "CETA gives us a chance to conclude a treaty which is based on higher standards and to force many other countries which do not like higher standards really to follow us, and that's an important step."

According to a European Parliament press release, agriculture and business representatives were generally supportive of the agreement.

Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of farmers' organization Copa Cogeca, told the hearing that, from a farming perspective, CETA "is very much a package deal." He said: "We see some major progress, we some difficult parts, especially in market access, but we very strongly believe it's strategically important for the European Union to act as a credible partner at international level in an area where the European Union is supposed to deliver the best and biggest gains for our economy, and that is our export of high quality European standard products to third countries."

However, trade union and public health advocates raised concerns about CETA's possible impact on public services, the level of protection for workers and the environment, and EU member states' right to regulate.

Penny Clarke, Deputy Secretary General of the European Federation of Public Services Unions, argued that there are intrinsic conflicts in the text and EU and member state policies. Nina Renshaw, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance, pointed out that there has been no assessment of what CETA would mean for medicine prices in Europe.

TAGS: environment | tax | business | free trade agreement (FTA) | export duty | public health | tariffs | trade treaty | agreements | Canada | import duty | standards | trade | European Union (EU) | services | Europe

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