Following several days of debate, the Canadian House of Commons today passed Bill C-30 “An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures” at third reading. The bill now moves to the Canadian Senate, where it is expected to be easily approved.
Substantially less predictable is what will happen when 751 elected members of the European Parliament vote to ratify the agreement on Wednesday afternoon following a final debate at their plenary session in Strasbourg, France. Although Canadian officials have consistently expressed confidence in having garnered sufficient votes for the controversial deal to pass with a clear majority, the result could still be a close-run thing.
The largest political group in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party, officially supports CETA, and is expected to be joined by other leading blocs such as the European Conservatives and Reformists and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. Pitted against them in the vote is a coalition of politically disparate groups including a number of far-right nationalist parties, the environmentalist Greens and the leftist Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.
Opponents of the deal are already gathering in Strasbourg for a noisy mass protest outside the parliament tomorrow and NGOs such as Friends of the Earth Europe and the European Federation of Public Services Unions, are urging legislators to vote against the deal “to send a powerful signal that ‘trade as usual’ cannot continue.”
Claiming that CETA will worsen both “global inequalities” and “the climate crisis on our doorstep” the two groups warn that if the deal is approved, “the European Parliament will be seen as putting corporate profits above people and the planet.” Additionally, they predict that “voting in favour of CETA will not make the public discontent go away, it will only strengthen it.”
Perhaps this may be the case seeing that many Europeans “interchange Canada and the U.S., confusing CETA with TTIP, its U.S. equivalent,” according to Schams El Ghoneimi, a Foreign Policy Advisor at the European Parliament, and especially so considering that a recent study on the Moscow-backed information war being waged against the TTIP found that far-left anti-trade organizations and activist protest groups spreading irrational “metaphoric messages and far-fetched myths” dominated over 90% of online media reporting on the trade deal.
Unfortunately, this misleading coverage has fostered a widespread belief among “generally ill-informed citizens and politicians” that the EU-Canada deal will allow fracking, tar sands, shale gas, “unsafe” genetically-modified foods, hormone-laced beef or chlorine chicken into Europe and could even lead to the wholesale privatization of healthcare, a rise in tobacco and alcohol consumption, the end of democracy, and higher rates of cancer, to name just some of the preposterous allegations routinely leveled against the agreement by its more strident critics.