German court rejects
emergency appeal to block EU-Canada trade deal
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[October 13, 2016]
By Caroline Copley
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Constitutional Court cleared the government
on Thursday to approve a trade accord between the European Union and
Canada under defined conditions, boosting the agreement's chances of
passing an EU vote next week.
The court in Karlsruhe rejected emergency appeals by activists to
prevent the government from backing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade
Agreement (CETA) before it has been ratified by national parliaments.
The court - Germany's highest - said the government must ensure that
only parts of CETA within the competence of the European Union, such as
the removal of tariffs, should be allowed to apply provisionally -
meaning before it is ratified by EU member states.
This means that a system of investor protection also envisaged in the
accord - which opponents say will hand too much power to multinationals
- may only come into force following ratification by national
Court president Andreas Vosskuhle also said it must be possible for
Germany to unilaterally terminate the provisional application of the
accord - effectively inserting a safety clauses allowing the government
to back out of the deal if it contravened Germany's constitution.
Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who has championed the agreement as
Europe's best chance to shape the changing rules of global trade, said
the ruling paved the way towards ratifying CETA.
"I am very pleased that we have made a first big step, because if Europe
were not able to deal with Canada, this would send a difficult signal in
the world," he said.
FAR FROM CERTAIN
Widely seen as a possible blueprint for TTIP, a larger trade deal the EU
has been negotiating with the United States, CETA aims to eliminate
tariffs on 98 percent of goods immediately.
CETA also encompasses regulatory cooperation, shipping, sustainable
development and access to government tenders.
EU trade ministers are due to vote on the accord next week and Brussels
and Ottawa then hope to sign it on Oct. 27.
But its final approval is far from certain, as it requires unanimous
support from member states and the European Parliament would also need
to vote to allow parts of it to go into force.
[to top of second column]
Protesters of BUND, a German non-governmental organisation (NGO)
dedicated to preserving nature and protecting the environment,
protest against CETA in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany,
October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos
Activists also welcomed the German court's ruling, calling it "a slap in the
face" for the government.
"The court is not simply waving through the provisional application but has
formulated strict requirements. This shows that the government has taken the
implications of the agreement for democracy far too lightly," said Thilo Bode of
consumer rights organization foodwatch.
Opponents argue the deal is undemocratic and will undermine workers' rights and
worsen standards for consumers.
accord still faces headwinds from elsewhere in Europe.
Southern Belgium is set to block the deal, while backing from Slovenia remains
Austria's chancellor, who has expressed strong objections to CETA, said his
decision on whether to back the deal would depend to a large extent on the
German court's ruling. Earlier on Thursday he struck a conciliatory tone, saying
many of his concerns had been addressed in an additional declaration.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet)
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