Germany's top court hears challenge to EU-Canada trade deal

Wed Oct 12, 2016 6:11am EDT
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KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's Constitutional Court on Wednesday began hearing a legal challenge to a planned EU-Canada free trade deal that could paralyze the accord.

Three German activist groups handed in 125,000 signatures to the court in August in opposition to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which they fear will undermine workers' rights and worsen standards for consumers.

Campact, foodwatch and More Democracy argue CETA breaches Germany's constitution because parts of it can come into force even before national parliaments have had their say.

They want to stop its implementation before official ratification by all EU states.

The court is due to rule on the emergency appeal on Thursday. A ruling in favor of the complaint would make it unlikely that Brussels and Ottawa could sign the accord at a summit on Oct. 27.

Austria's chancellor has expressed strong objections to CETA and said on Monday the court's decision would have a strong influence on whether CETA goes through.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel last month overcame left-wing resistance in his Social Democrats (SPD) party to CETA. He has said the agreement is the West's chance to shape the rules governing globalization.

Asked what a ruling in favor of the petitioners would mean, he said outside the court: "This would be a catastrophe for Europe."

In a week's time EU trade ministers are due to vote on CETA, which requires unanimous support. The European Parliament would also need to vote to allow it to go into force.   Continued...

Members of the Lower house of parliament Bundestag debate on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in Berlin, Germany September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos