EU parliament votes in favour of CETA trade deal with Canada

Unites the markets of 35 million Canadians with 500 million Europeans.

February 15, 2017   by ASSOCIATED PRESS

BRUSSELS — The European Union parliament has approved CETA, a trade deal with Canada, extolling the pact as a sign of co-operation at a time when many political forces, including US President Donald Trump’s administration, are trying to halt globalization.

After three hours of debate on Feb. 15 and years of negotiations preceding that, the legislature approved the deal by a margin of 408-254 with 33 abstentions.

The vote should close the drawn-out approval process across the 28 member states, where some governments and legislatures had tried to modify or scupper the deal. The Netherlands could still block it if it demands an advisory national referendum on the deal.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, is designed to unite the markets of 35 million Canadians with 500 million Europeans.

EU ratification now paves the way for 90% of the agreement to come into force once the Canadian Parliament follows suit in the coming months.

The vote comes as populist parties in Europe and Trump in the US have been looking increasingly inwards, thwarting a trade deal with Pacific countries and floating the idea of tariffs on imports.

The vote also comes a day before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to arrive in Europe to celebrate the vote and push the merits of free trade in the face of increasingly hostile, populist opposition.

Trudeau is to deliver a pro-trade message in an address to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Feb. 16 – a first for a Canadian leader – and to top business leaders a day later in Germany.

International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne was already in Strasbourg ahead of the vote.

Here are some facts about the deal:

• Canada is the EU’s 12th most important trading partner. The EU is Canada’s second-largest trading partner after the US and accounts for nearly 10% of its external trade.

• In 2014, Canadian exports to the EU totalled $39.5 billion, with imports at $53 billion.

• The EU has a population of more than 500 million and a nominal GDP of almost $18 trillion.

• The agreement would eliminate about 98% of the tariffs on both sides of the deal.

•A joint Canada-EU study concluded that the trade agreement could increase bilateral trade by 20% annually and boost Canada’s income by $12 billion annually.

• The study suggested the economic benefit of the agreement would be equivalent to creating almost 80,000 new jobs or increasing the average Canadian household’s annual income by $1,000.

• The first round of negotiations was held in Ottawa in October 2009 and an agreement in principle was announced four years later. After fine-tuning some contentious clauses, a final legal text was released in February 2016.

• Adoption of the deal in Europe was nearly scuttled by Wallonia, a Belgian region of 3.6 million people. A final round of negotiation saved the agreement from a Walloon veto that would have ended seven tough years of talks.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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