The parliament of the Belgian region of Wallonia voted Friday to block the CETA free trade deal between the EU and Canada, showing how one rebel local government can sink a key global agreement years in the making.
Officially known as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, activists brand it a Trojan horse for a much more ambitious deal with the United States.
The vote is also a stark wake-up call for Britain as it starts its negotiations for life outside the European Union.
WHAT IS CETA?
CETA is a free trade deal between Canada and the EU’s current 28 nations, that was formally concluded in 2014 after five years of talks.
Its backers tip it as a new kind of trade instrument linking highly developed Western economies that share a similar set values and traditions.
But it is opposed by wide array of groups, including environmental activists, trade unionists, and Austrian and French-speaking Belgian Socialists.
They say it is a test model to push through the even more controversial EU-U.S. trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), still in negotiation.
WHAT’S IN CETA?
Except for a few sensitive agricultural products, CETA abolishes virtually all tariffs between Canada and the EU. Acquiescing to a European demand, Canada has agreed to substantially open up its public procurement to EU companies, which until now were basically barred from such contracts.
The European Commission, which handles trade negotiations for the bloc, points to the 145 European Geographical Indications that will be protected on the Canadian market, ranging from champagne to parma ham and gorgonzola cheese
CETA backers say the deal will boost trade in goods and services between Europe and Canada by more than 20 percent, and total EU GDP by about 12 billion euros ($13.4 billion) per year.
WHAT IS INVESTOR PROTECTION?
A key point of opposition to CETA, as for TTIP, is a built-in provision designed to help investors shield themselves from any government regulation that would violate the terms of the trade deal.
Opponents say it allows commercial interests to force governments to change laws at the behest of private interests.
In February, Canada accepted important modifications to the contested investor protection system, including leaving more power to governments to regulate freely and the creation of a full-fledged court that would handle complaints.
HOW ARE TTIP AND CETA DIFFERENT?
The deal with the U.S., the world’s biggest economy and superpower, is seen as the bigger threat by anti-CETA protestors.
Unlike CETA, TTIP is still under negotiation and far from the finish line even though talks began in 2013. This month, negotiators conceded that the talks would need to continue beyond the Obama administration, promising even further delays.
Closely run elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands in 2017 will also likely delay negotiations.
“It’s the first time that the EU is negotiating an accord with an economy of a similar size,” said Sebastien Jean of the CEPII think tank in Paris regarding the U.S. deal.
Worries are rife on both sides of the Atlantic that one power is trying to impose an economic model on the other, he added.
EU trade ministers are set to meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to give their final greenlight for the deal’s signature with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on October 27.
For that, all 28 member states need to hand over their signatory power.
Without Belgium, which needs the greenlight from seven local governments, the signature will not happen.
“I will not give powers to the federal government (on Tuesday),” Paul Magnette, the socialist head of the Wallonia government warned on Friday.
Source : french press ,al nahar , associated press