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Approval by European Parliament Paves Way for CETA Implementation

Posted February 16, 2017

Despite significant opposition from a diverse array of highly motivated protest groups, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) managed to clear yet another major hurdle yesterday, receiving approval from a clear majority of legislators in the European Parliament.

Backed by 408 MEPs and rejected by 254, with 33 abstentions, the ratification vote clears the way for the provisional implementation of the vast majority of the deal’s benefits, including elimination of almost all tariffs on goods originating in the EU worth more than $550 million.

Additionally, the agreement includes a wide range of new measures pertaining to market access for goods, services, investment and government procurement, as well as on intellectual property rights, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, sustainable development, regulatory cooperation, mutual recognition, trade facilitation, cooperation on raw materials, dispute settlement and technical barriers to trade.

According to Article 30.7(2) of the Canadian enabling legislation Bill C-30, the agreement will “enter into force on the first day of the second month following the date the Parties exchange written notifications certifying that they have completed their respective internal requirements and procedures or on such other date as the Parties may agree.”

In other words, CETA will take effect one month after the bill is approved by the Senate, which if it acts rapidly could be as soon as the first day of April.

Complete implementation of all the deal’s provisions, however, is still not possible at this stage owing to a pragmatic decision made last year by the European Commission to pursue ratification of CETA as a so-called “mixed agreement” in order to expedite its approval, rather than waiting for the outcome of a pending case before the European Court of Justice over the thorny issue of “competence” – essentially a power struggle concerning sovereignty between the governing body of the EU and its member states being played out as a fastidious dispute about their respective law-making prerogatives pertaining to international trade agreements.     

As a result of this compromised approach, the areas of the agreement that will be excluded from provisional implementation (often referred to arbitrarily in journalistic shorthand as accounting for 10% of the deal) are those related to: investment protection; investment market access for portfolio investment (not including foreign direct investment); the Investment Court System; and, rather curiously, a specific intellectual property rights measure dealing with “Camcording” (the so-called “film piracy” provision described in CETA Art. 5.6).

Still hoping to scupper the “toxic” deal in the final strokes, increasingly desperate anti-trade opponents are now looking to parliaments in the EU member states to throw a final spanner in the works by urging one or more to simply reject the agreement outright, and/or pushing at the grassroots level to mobilize sufficient popular support in order to reach a quorum needed to trigger referendums on the agreement.  

“We will use every avenue available to pursue our demands,” vowed Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation.