Germany's Gabriel gets green light to support EU-Canada trade deal

Mon Sep 19, 2016 4:56pm EDT
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By Holger Hansen and Caroline Copley

WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Germany appeared set on Monday to back an ambitious trade accord between the European Union and Canada after the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), junior partner in the ruling coalition, overcame left-wing resistance to the deal within his party.

The SPD decision paves the way for EU member states to approve the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) next month before Brussels signs the accord with Ottawa on Oct. 27.

Left-wing SPD members had argued that CETA would undermine workers' rights and environmental standards, but party leader Sigmar Gabriel said it represented the EU's best chance to shape globalization in the interests of ordinary people.

"It's a really good day for the SPD but especially for the implementation of rules for globalization," Gabriel told a news conference after two thirds of delegates at an SPD congress backed a compromise deal over CETA.

Gabriel, who is also vice chancellor and economy minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative-led coalition, has staked his political future on securing SPD backing for CETA.

Failure at Monday's congress, would have likely scuppered Gabriel's chances of standing as the SPD candidate for chancellor in national elections due in October 2017.

This might have unleashed a damaging power struggle within the SPD at a time when it is badly trailing Merkel's conservatives in opinion polls. The coalition's popularity has also suffered following Merkel's decision last year to open Germany's borders to more than one million migrants.

In a joint statement, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Canada's Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said they were committed to making "formal clarifications" on parts of the accord where there are still concerns.   Continued...

Consumer rights activists hold banners to protest against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) during a meeting of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), which are expected to narrowly vote in favour of a trade deal between the European Union and Canada in Wolfsburg, Germany, September 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer