EurActiv | 29 April 2016
CETA runs into trouble with Dutch, Walloon parliaments
By Daniela Vincenti
Just days after rejecting the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in a nationwide vote, the Dutch parliament has passed a motion rejecting provisional application of the EU-Canada trade deal, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Opposition on backing the trade deal is moving from the streets to parliaments. On Wednesday (27 April), the Walloon parliament also refused to sign CETA.
With 44 votes for and 22 against, the Walloon parliament pushed through a resolution requesting the regional government not to grant full powers to the Belgian federal executive to sign the CETA deal.
The Walloon legislature was the first among the competent EU parliaments to launch a warning on the ratification of the international treaty.
Yesterday (28 April), the Dutch parliament asked to hear the government, in case the European Commission makes a proposal on the provisional enforcement of the treaty.
According to the motion, presented by Dutch MP Jan Vos, at the moment, the division of authority between the EU and the member states is insufficiently clear on provisional enforcement.
The parliament requested that the government present a proposal to MPs before taking any position on CETA, in case the European Commission makes a proposal on the provisional enforcement of the treaty.
Canada and the European Union recently renegotiated the investment chapter of their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement after formal negotiations had closed, responding to political pressure—primarily in Europe—to scrap a traditional investor-state arbitration system included in the original deal.
In June, EU leaders are supposed to ratify CETA. Although final government approval is expected in September, the June meeting is the last chance for European governments to raise serious objections.
Dutch voters are increasingly looking to a referendum on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as their next target.
Some 100,000 Dutch citizens have already signed a petition demanding a referendum on TTIP. 300,000 names are needed to trigger a non-binding vote on the issue, as was the case with the Ukraine plebiscite.
The treaty must be ratified by the European Parliament, and each of the parliaments of the 28 member states of the EU, to finally come into force.
Last week, Canadian Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland was in Brussels to try to convince MEPs to look at CETA in its own right.
“Sometimes when Canadians and Europeans speak, we want to just have a tête-à-tête, but it becomes a ménage à trois. Let’s not make our relationship a ménage à trois,” she told the MEPs.
“I would love unanimous support in your parliament. I’m gunning for it in mine,” Freeland said.
“You are not going to get a better deal. And this deal will be a very important precedent for progressive trade deals going forward,” she said.
The EU and Canada negotiated a deal almost without any opposition. It was only when crowds mobilised against TTIP that CETA’s critics came to the fore.
However, even Merkel’s Vice-Chancellor, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, who was one of the original critics of TTIP and CETA, seemed to be reassured by the rewriting the controversial investor-state dispute clause (ISDS)
Canada agreed recently to review the deal and include the setting up of an investment court instead of standing by post-NAFTA improvements worked out with the US during the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.
Some MEPs are worrying that US companies could use close trade ties with Canada to launch investor lawsuits against EU states.
Freeland responded by arguing that the investor court would prevent business-to-state disputes from becoming state-to-state diplomatic row.
Negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) were completed in 2014. In February 2016, Canada and the European Commission announced that the legal review of the agreement had been completed, and a new approach to investment protection and dispute resolution inserted into the text.
"This agreement will make the investment system more transparent, independent, and impartial. CETA is one of the most ambitious and progressive trade agreements ever concluded by either Canada or the EU. This gold-standard agreement will benefit both our economies and deepen the already strong trade and investment relationship we share," the European Commission statement reads.