Germany's Gabriel wins
over key critic ahead of vote on EU-Canada trade deal
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[September 19, 2016]
By Holger Hansen and Caroline Copley
WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) -
Germany's Vice Chancellor has won over an important critic in his
Social Democrats (SPD) party ahead of a crucial vote on a trade deal
between the European Union and Canada, raising the chances that
Europe's biggest economy will back the accord.
The center-left SPD is the junior partner in conservative Chancellor
Angela Merkel's ruling coalition and some party members have sharply
criticized the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the
EU's most ambitious trade accord to date.
However Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany's economy minister, has
championed CETA and says it represents the EU's best chance to shape
globalization so that it serves people and not just the interests of
Some 235 delegates will decide at an SPD convention on Monday in
Wolfsburg, northern Germany, on whether to give CETA the green
Ahead of the convention, the SPD executive committee unanimously
backed a new compromise on CETA which Gabriel agreed with left-wing
lawmaker Matthias Miersch, one of the accord's fiercest critics,
according to a person familiar with the vote.
The compromise calls for the European Parliament to launch a
consultation process before a decision is taken on what parts of
CETA should be applied provisionally.
Gabriel has tied his fate to the success of CETA and a failure to
secure a majority of delegates in favor of the accord could scupper
his chances of standing as the party's candidate for chancellor in
national elections next year.
CETA is due to be signed by Brussels and Ottawa next month prior to
full ratification by EU member states' parliaments. It aims to
eliminate tariffs on 98 percent of goods immediately and also
encompasses regulatory cooperation, shipping, sustainable
development and access to government tenders.
Left-wing members of the SPD argue that the deal will undermine
workers' rights and environmental standards, and see it as a
blueprint for a parallel trade deal the EU is trying to negotiate
with the United States, which is known as TTIP.
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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
"Now and later, stop TTIP, stop CETA," protesters gathered outside the
convention in Wolfsburg chanted, waving banners and banging drums.
Around 180,000 people took part in rallies on Saturday in seven German cities
against both trade deals, police said.
Some left-wing SPD members remained skeptical about CETA.
"We need to say 'no' to our approval in the European Council," said Klaus
Barthel, head of the SPD's task force on employee matters, adding this would
bolster the party's credibility with voters.
With just over a year to go until Germany's federal election, the SPD is badly
trailing Merkel's conservatives in opinion polls.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen and Caroline Copley; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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