Final push: Commission promotes CETA ahead of vote

© iStock/ronniechua

As EU politicians prepare to vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada this week, the Commission has launched an interactive guide to show Europeans how it would boost trade and jobs without compromising food safety and quality.

Although it has not met as much opposition as its controversial US-EU equivalent, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), CETA has also found itself facing resistance.

A coalition of over 450 civil society groups from Europe and Canada has signed an open letter asking politicians to reject it, fearing it will erode public power over public health and environmental issues, among others.

The deal promises to boost trade between the EU and Canada by eliminating 98% of the tariff barriers that currently exist, and the Commission has launched a campaign and website dedicated to convincing Europeans it will be beneficial.

Top food exports

The interactive map ‘CETA in your town’ allows people to see the impact the deal would have on individual towns by highlighting which goods are exported to

Canada. 

Greece, for instance, is a major exporter of agri-food products to Canada. The three towns of Thassaloniki, Patras and Piraeus alone sell wine, olive oil, coffee, dried figs, peppers, herbs and sesame seeds.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of whey, cheese sauce and tea figure among the 616 Irish companies that export to Canada.

The town of Murcia in Spain exports gin, vinegar and peppers while Stuttgart in Germany exports beetroot juice, and the Danish town of Aalborg sells pork and margarine.

More trade means more jobs

According to the Commission, around 865,000 jobs in the EU are supported by trade to Canada. The infographic also says what
percentage of companies set to benefit from the deal in each member state are small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in a bid to dispel the 'myth' that it will

only serve giant corporations.

In Germany, for instance, almost three quarters (73%) of the 10,464 companies that export to Canada are SMEs, it says.

CETA has already been approved by European parliaments in the Council, but even if it gets the backing from a majority of MEPs it must also be ratified by national and regional parliaments.

Protecting food safety and quality

The Commission is also adamant that freer trade will not impinge on Europe's food quality or safety standards.

“Although the EU would be able to export nearly 92% of its agricultural and food products duty free, this would not come at the expense of protection for European products.

“Canada has agreed to protect 143 European products that are associated with a specific town or region and that enjoy a great reputation because of their qualities.”

This would prevent the sale of imitations of some European delicacies such as feta from Greece and roquefort from France.

“All imports from Canada would still have to meet EU rules and regulations. CETA would not lower or change EU health and safety, environment and social or consumers rights standards. It wouldn't change how the EU regulates food safety, including on GMO products or the ban on hormone-treated beef.”

Since the technical negotiations formally wrapped up in 2014, Canadian beef producers have been developing hormone-free beef for European export while Canadian officials began working to eliminate the country's ban on European beef following the BSE-scare in the 1990s.

ISDS upgrade

Another point of contention has been the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) which could have seen private firms bring legal action against states for introducing legislation deemed to be damaging to the company.

The Commission says the clause has been revised. “In response to pressure from the European Parliament, the ISDS mechanism -considered a private system based on companies’ choices- was replaced by the Investment Court System (ICS), which aims to ensure government control over the choice of arbitrators.

“The new Investment Court System would be public, not based on temporary tribunals and have professional and independent judges appointed by the EU and Canada.”

But after asking three lawyers to study the CETA text following the Commission's redraft, industry watchdog Foodwatch still maintains it distorts fundamental principles enshrined in the French constitution such as equality before the law, the exercise of national sovereignty or the precautionary principle. 

"Solely foreign investors have access to the ICS, not national ones," director-general Karine Jacquemart told us. "The 'fundamental conditions for national sovereignty' are not respected, in particular because the ICS undermines the national legal jurisdictions since foreign investors can choose to bypass them and to attack directly states via the ICS."

"In conclusion, Foodwatch maintains that CETA is not only threatening the EU democracy by giving unacceptable powers to transnational companies, but it also violates the French Constitution. One of the many arguments supporting our strong call for CETA to be stopped." 

  

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Comments (1)

Peter Schaefer - 14 Feb 2017 | 06:32

Director

Thanks forward for your support and wehry important information regarding ceta.

14-Feb-2017 at 18:32 GMT

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