EU seeks to save Canada
trade deal as prospects for deal with U.S. fade
Send a link to a friend
[September 23, 2016]
By Philip Blenkinsop and Tatiana Jancarikova
BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - EU ministers took
steps on Friday to approve a contentious free trade deal with Canada,
while a growing number said talks towards a similar agreement with the
United States should stop.
Both deals have triggered protests by unions and environmental and other
groups who say they will spark a 'race to the bottom' in labor and
public health standards and allow big business to challenge governments
After a first session devoted to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade
Agreement (CETA) struck with Canada two years ago but still awaiting
approval, ministers agreed the two sides would put together a
declaration spelling out the limits of the pact to dispel public
The ministers themselves are expected now to convene an extraordinary
meeting on Oct. 18, allowing the deal to be signed during the visit of
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Brussels on Oct. 27. It could
enter force next year.
"There was a great willingness to sign the agreement in October ...
There are still some things to do, but it was a very good debate,"
Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's economy minister and vice-chancellor, told
Gabriel on Monday overcame left-wing resistance to the deal within his
Social Democrats, the junior coalition partners in government.
However, lingering doubts remain elsewhere, notably in Austria, where
Chancellor Christian Kern's Social Democrats have grave concern, and
Belgium, where not all regions back the deal.
Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria's Christian Democrat vice chancellor,
said a declaration making clear that public services and labor and
environmental standards were not under threat and that a special court
would not allow big business to dictate public policy should allay
Mitterlehner also argued again for a fresh start to be made to the
EU-U.S. Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks,
which have been going on for the past three-and-a-half years.
He said they should be ended and relaunched after the U.S. presidential
elections with greater transparency, clearer goals and a different name
"In our view, and this is also the view of other countries, the current
procedure will not lead to success," he said.
Washington and Brussels are officially committed to sealing this deal
before President Barack Obama leaves office in January.
[to top of second column]
Thousands of people demonstrate against the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive
Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in the centre of Brussels,
Belgium September 20, 2016. Reuters/Eric Vidal
But their chances of doing so are remote given approaching elections on
both sides of the Atlantic, Britain's vote in June to leave the European
Union and powerful calls for a fresh start from European powers
Czech industry and trade minister Jan Mladek said in a tweet that
Austria and France had called on Friday for an immediate termination of
Some ministers spelt out the difference between concessions granted by
Canada and what they said was U.S. intransigence.
"If the Americans are not ready to meet at least the standard of CETA,
with Canada, then there will be no chance of a deal," said Gabriel.
EU trade chief Cecelia Malmstrom denied TTIP was dead.
"The likelihood of a quick conclusion is of course becoming smaller and
smaller, but it makes all the sense in the world to continue to talk and
to make as much progress as possible," she said.
Outside the ministers' meeting in Bratislava, around 100 local trade
unions and Friends of the Earth activists held banners, mostly in
English and German, denouncing CETA and TTIP. On the other side of the
Danube river, Greenpeace unveiled a large banner on the top of a tower
reading "No TTIP".
(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Writing by Philip
Blenkinsop; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.