Germany's Gabriel faces crunch vote over EU-Canada trade deal

Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:36am EDT
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By Caroline Copley

BERLIN (Reuters) - The political future of Germany's vice chancellor may hinge on the outcome of a vote next week by his Social Democrats (SPD) over whether to back a trade deal between the European Union and Canada.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has championed the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) as part of his remit as economy minister, and to demonstrate the center-left party's business credentials.

But critics on the SPD's left wing are skeptical about the benefits of the deal and believe it would give multinationals greater access to European markets without creating jobs.

A failure to secure a majority of delegates at Monday's SPD convention in favor of the accord could scupper Gabriel's chances of standing as the party's candidate for chancellor in national elections next year.

It might also unleash a damaging power struggle within the party, the junior partner in the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

"If he loses the vote and if he decided to step down on the back of it, then there would be chaos," said Gero Neugebauer, analyst at Berlin's Free University.

That would further upset the balance within the coalition at a time when Merkel is looking to the SPD to counter a growing rift between her CDU party and its conservative CSU allies in Bavaria over her refugee policy.

A majority SPD vote in favor of CETA, however, would give a much needed shot-in-the arm to Gabriel, who languishes behind Merkel in approval ratings despite her popularity taking a hit from her decision a year ago to open Germany's borders to refugees.   Continued...

A giant Trojan horse statue holding EU and Canadian flags in its mouth, set up by the social activist group "Council of Canadians" in front of the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre to protest the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union, is seen in Toronto November 4, 2013.    REUTERS/Mark Blinch