European Union Slams Trump While Ratifying Trade Deal With Canada

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief
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Members of the European Parliament used the ratification of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada to slam President Donald Trump’s great wall and America First policies.

“Together we can build bridges, instead of a wall, for the prosperity of our citizens. CETA will be a lighthouse for future trade deals all over the world,” said Artis Pabriks of the European People’s Party,” calling Canada an “ally we can rely on.”

He suggested that by “adopting CETA, we chose openness, and growth and high standards over protectionism and stagnation.”

But CETA wasn’t the choice for many in the parliament or among many European voters who vigorously opposed the treaty.

The massive trade agreement will become 90 percent operational by spring.

But Canadian International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne, apparently reflecting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s non-interference policy with three U.S., echoed some of Trump’s populist rhetoric and avoiding any criticism of protectionism, proclaiming “This is a deal for the people.” He claimed the agreement would present consumers with greater choice and lower prices.

“Trade is a good thing for the world,” he said.

Though the Liberal government might be claiming credit for the agreement, Wednesday’s resolution was years in the making, with the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper initiating contact and doing most of the tough negotiating.

The deal was not resoundingly endorsed by the EU parliament, with 58 percent of its members supporting CETA after a boisterous debate that saw tempers flare repeatedly.

Parties on both the right and the left opposed the agreement.

CETA is not just about tariffs — though these will be eliminated, immediately or gradually, on a huge range of agricultural products. More controversially, the deal will force the Canadian government to allow foreign companies to bid on federal contracts and compels Canada to harmonize its labor codes and environmental standards with those of the left-leaning European Union.

It will also allow Canadian branches of large U.S. corporations to sue individual members of the EU. More than anything else, this provision led to protests in the streets and arguments that CETA eroded sovereignty. Opponents even showed up at the European parliament in a show of force.

Of the 695 MEPs present in the 751-seat legislature, 408 voted in favor, 254 against and 33 abstained.

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