The international trade committee of the European Parliament just approved the free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada, CETA. It is the most ambitious and far-reaching trade agreement that the EU has ever signed. But it also includes everything that the socialists have been asking for on EU trade policy: guarantees on sustainable development, protection on public services and clarifications on all parties to pursue public policy to protect the environment and public health. Canada is also the ideal partner to strike a trade agreement with, a liberal democracy with shared values it is virtually a European country on the other side of the Atlantic. Despite this the socialists have joined the globalisation opponents in the far-left and green groups in filibustering our final plenary vote because of internal political division. With all debates we’ve had on CETA, it’s now time to give the green light and show Europe is open for business.
Yesterday, we had another debate on CETA in the committee ahead of today’s vote. It was the sixth time our committee discussed the agreement. On top of that we’ve had 12 working groups on our trade relations with Canada, two delegations to actually see the Canadian economy at place and a debate with the committee for legal affairs on specific parts of the agreement. I can tell you one thing: we heard nothing new that will change anyone’s opinion on CETA. All the arguments have been made. In fact, the opponents of CETA seemed to have ran out of any serious arguments that the literally called the agreement that we will democratically vote on today as “a threat to democracy” or “a pact with the devil”.
But the fact that we have had all the opportunities to vet the agreement through and have had numerous clarifications on any unclarities, through interpretive declarations, letters from Commissioner Malmström. I agree that no agreement can be 100 percent clear from the outset but the fact that the trade sceptics are finding new issues before we vote makes it totally clear: they are not looking for serious answers on questions, they are just filibustering our final vote.
Unsurprisingly, the extreme groups on the left and on the right are doing everything they can to stop the vote but they have found an ally: the socialist group. Time after another, they have asked for a postponement of the vote both in the committee and in plenary. They backtracked from previous decisions on what committees to have opinions and First, they managed to postpone the plenary vote from December last year to mid-February. But once again, they are playing a political game to try postpone the vote to March. It doesn’t matter that their responsible MEP Sorin Moisa is saying all things have been examined and wants to proceed with a vote. The socialist group leadership under Gianni Pittella is playing a silly political game to wait until we decide, despite all arguments having been heard.
It’s not the usual behaviour of their group. Agreements with more problematic countries such as southern Africa, South Korea or Uzbekistan have been approved with much less debate. Instead, they are blocking an agreement that has all the provisions they have asked for in previous resolutions because of political pride.
When other countries are turning more protectionist and pulling themselves out signed trade agreements this is bad. Europe needs to show we can stand for our words in trade negotiations and that we want to cooperate with like-minded countries such as Canada. Yesterday, Canada was turned down by the United States as Donald Trump pulled the US out of their latest agreement, the TPP. Today, our committee sent a strong signal to Canada and other partners that Europe wants freer trade and wants clear rules for globalisation. It’s time the entire European Parliament gets to say that as well.