STRASBOURG: The EU Commission on Tuesday urged member states to swiftly ratify the long delayed EU-Canada trade deal, an agreement that is seen by critics as a dangerous model for a much larger deal with the US.
Canadian and European leaders formally concluded the deal in 2014, but implementation has been delayed due to rising discontent in Europe over the effects of globalisation and granting too much power to big business.
The European Union’s behaviour with trade deals will also be closely watched in Britain, which looks set to have to forge its own with the bloc after voting to leave the EU in a referendum last month.
“The trade agreement between the EU and Canada is our best and most progressive trade agreement and I want it to enter into force as soon as possible,” said EU Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker in a statement.
But amid growing opposition by key powers Germany and France, the commission abandoned plans to fast-track the Canada deal that would have bypassed the uncertainties of winning over national parliaments.
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said the deal, if signed as hoped in October, could still be applied provisionally as it underwent years of ratification across the around 40 national or regional parliaments in the EU.
The deal is scheduled to be signed by EU leaders at the end of October in Brussels with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and could be implemented provisionally as early as 2017.
But the temporary green light still requires the approval of the 28 EU member states and European Parliament where many MEPs remain staunchly opposed to the deal.
“The Commission is pressing for a swift application of CETA, before national parliaments are allowed to take a vote,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
This “would increase distrust in mainstream politics and threaten democracy and environmental protection,” it added.
The main object of their opposition is the hugely ambitious EU-US trade deal, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is also currently under negotiation.
French Trade Minster Matthias Fekl on Monday warned that it will be “impossible” for the European Union and the United States to conclude negotiations on a trade deal by the end of 2016 as hoped.
Fekl said the EU was “completely out of touch with what is happening in Europe” on trade matters.
But the EU’s Malmstroem accused member states of playing political games with the trade deal and stoking populist fires.
“The risk … is that member states infect this debate by confusing the content of the agreement with a general malaise and globalisations … feeling in their member countries,” the Swede told a news briefing in Strasbourg.
“Instead of addressing the questions and the concerns by the citizens, (governments) are using CETA and … TTIP in order to sort of boost this feeling and not show the adequate leadership,” she said.