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EU Parliament committee backs EU-Canada trade deal

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EU Parliament committee backs EU-Canada trade deal

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(BRUSSELS) - Members of the European Parliament's trade committee gave their backing Tuesday to the controversial CETA EU-Canada trade and investment protection agreement.

The agreement - which took place a day after US president Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) - would remove tariffs on most traded goods and services, will now go to a final vote by all MEPs next month.

"The prime motivation is to ensure more wealth from trade", said Artis Pabriks, the MEP responsible for steering the deal through Parliament: "Ceta is a really good example of how good trade deals should be made."

CETA has attracted much controversy, with warnings from environmental NGOs that the deal could lead to a weakening of environmental, health and social protection standards.

Politicians should look at the evidence, says Greenpeace EU trade policy adviser Shira Stanton: "an honest look at the evidence would force them to recognise that multinationals are gearing up for an assault on nature, on our health and on social rights."

The CETA trade deal will remove tariffs on most traded goods and services. It also provides for the mutual recognition of certification for a wide range of products. This means that if an EU firm wants to export toys, for example, it will only need to get its product tested once, in Europe, to obtain a certificate that is valid for Canada, thus saving time and money.

Canada is to open up its public procurement markets at both federal and municipal levels, to ensure symmetrical access. EU service suppliers ranging from maritime services through telecoms and engineering to environmental services and accountancy are to benefit from access to the Canadian market.

Safeguards for agricultural goods and environmental and social standards

In negotiations, the EU secured protection for over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market. Sustainable development provisions were included to maintain environmental and social standards and ensure that trade and investment enhance both.

To allay citizens' concerns that the deal gives too much power to multinational companies and that governments will not be able to legislate to protect health, safety or the environment, the EU and Canada recognise in both the preamble to the deal and an attached joint declaration that these provisions preserve the domestic right to regulate.

The deal includes exceptions, in particular that it will not remove tariff barriers for public services, audiovisual and transport services and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs.

On investor protection rules, the controversial investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism was replaced by the Investment Court System (ICS), which aims to ensure government control over the choice of arbitrators and enhances transparency.

If the deal is approved by the full Parliament at its February plenary session, it could apply provisionally from as early as April 2017. As CETA was declared a mixed agreement by the European Commission in July, it will also need to be ratified by national and regional parliaments.

Canada ranks twelfth amongst the EU's trading partners, and the EU is Canada's second most important trading partner. Canada is also the fourth-largest investor in the EU. In 2015 the EU imported goods from Canada worth €28.3 billion and exported goods to it worth €35.2 billion, a figure that is expected to rise by more than 20% when the agreement is implemented in full.

Further information, European Parliament

Full text of the agreement

Briefing on Ceta


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