EU, Canada sign free trade deal but battle not over

Sun Oct 30, 2016 3:03pm EDT
 
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Canada signed a free trade agreement on Sunday that aims to generate jobs and growth though it must still clear some 40 national and regional parliaments in Europe in the coming years to enter fully into force.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the treaty along with the heads of EU institutions, a step that should enable a provisional implementation of the pact early in 2017 with the removal of most import duties.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement's (CETA) passage has not been smooth.

French-speakers in southern Belgium, a minority within their own small country and accounting for less than 1 percent of the 508 million EU consumers likely to be affected by CETA, raised objections that held up the deal until a breakthrough on Thursday, confirmed by regional parliamentary votes on Friday.

"We are setting standards which will determine globalization in the coming years," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference alongside Trudeau. "Nothing in other trade agreements will be able to remain below the level of what we have reached today with Canada."

The Canada agreement is seen as a springboard to a larger EU deal with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP), which has been the target of labor unions and environmental and other protest groups.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said TTIP talks are not dead, contrary to what some politicians in Germany and France have said, but would need to wait for the next U.S. president - who will take office in January - to resume.

Supporters say CETA will increase Canadian-EU trade by 20 percent and boost the EU economy by 12 billion euros ($13 billion) a year and Canada's by C$12 billion ($9 billion).   Continued...

 
(L-R) European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Donald Tusk and Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico attend the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, October 30, 2016.  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir