The free trade agreement between the European Parliament and Canada has entered into force. The European Parliament has approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a deal seven years in the making. CETA’s ratification will eliminate almost all trade tariffs between the European Union and Canada and the EU estimates that the mutual trade, which currently stands at more than €60bn a year, will be boosted by 20%.
MEPs overwhelmingly supported the deal with 408 in favor and 254 against. The deal has been criticized over concerns that it would undermine the EU’s environmental, labor and consumer standards and “destroy equality“. Hundreds of protestors gathered in front of the European Parliament building in Strasbourg ahead of the vote but EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom assured EU citizens that the deal would not compromise the EU’s decision making. She said that approving the deal “will not change food safety standards or any other EU requirements, only the EU institutions can do that”.
The EU has embraced the deal as a shining example of international cooperation amid rising isolationism. The ratification follows Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on his first day in office. He also campaigned for the presidency by deriding NAFTA, the free trade pact between the US, Canada, and Mexico, as a job killer and “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country.” As to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently still being negotiated, it is effectively “dead and buried” now that President Donald J. Trump has indicated a move away from multilateral trading blocs, Bow Group, Britain’s oldest conservative think tank has said.
“With President Trump in the White House we see a clear change in US policy,” said Marietje Schaake of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats who backed the deal in the European Parliament. “Leadership for open economies and societies must come from us in Europe. We cannot imagine a better partner than Canada, the most European country outside the Union,” she said. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, described the deal as “an important milestone” and said “EU companies and citizens will start to reap the benefits the agreement offers as soon as possible”.