Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen behind a poster with a crossed CETA (Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement) sign as he adresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, February 16, 2017. (Vincent Kessler/REUTERS)

Canadian legislators urge their French counterparts to reject CETA

As the French National Assembly gets ready to vote Wednesday on ratifying a landmark free trade deal between Canada and the European Union, a group of Canadian opposition legislators is urging their French counterparts to reject the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

The free trade deal was signed in October of 2016 and entered into provisional force in September 2017, sweeping away tariffs on 98 per cent of goods.

CETA will only enter into force fully and definitively, when all EU member states have ratified the agreement.

An open letter signed by New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says CETA does not offer appropriate safeguards to address the “climate crisis” and the “rampant inequality crisis affecting us all.”

“CETA works against our common desires,” says the letter released Monday. “CETA is based on a blueprint for trade that gives incredible rights to corporations—in the areas of protection, patents, public services, regulatory harmonization, and food and agriculture—without extending comparable rights to people, communities and the environment.”

French politician Yannick Jadot (L), green party EELV (Europe-Ecologie-les-Verts) candidate for the 2017 French presidential election and Member of the European Parliament sits behind a placard that reads “Yes to Canada, No to CETA” as he waits for the start of a voting session on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, in Strasbourg, France, February 15, 2017. (Vincent Kessler /REUTERS)

The deal also fails to create strong labour and environmental provisions that are binding, the authors of the letter argue, adding that it will lead to losses on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Canada and Québec’s farmers will see their supply management system threatened, while European farming standards will face pressure from big agribusiness,” the letter says. “In Canada, our patent rules have already been changed, thereby raising costs of medicines for the population.”

Critics of the deal also raise concerns about CETA’s investment dispute settlement provisions, which they claim will allow large corporations to challenge public policies.

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defends the deal, saying it has already led to an increase in trade between Canada and the EU.

The EU is Canada’s second-biggest trading partner after the U.S. Last year Canada exported nearly $44.5 billion worth of goods to the EU, an increase of 7 per cent over 2017, according to government statistics. The EU in turn exported nearly $60 billion worth of goods to Canada, an increase of nearly 9 per cent over 2017, according to the European Commission statistics.

Canadian imports from France, in particular, have grown by 21 per cent in the first 18 months after the implementation of the agreement, and by 11 per cent in the agrifood sector, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Direct Canadian investments in France have increased by nearly 10 per cent in 2018.

CETA ratification will be one of the main topics of discussion Wednesday when Trudeau hosts EU leaders in Montreal for a two-day Canada-EU summit.

Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Spain have already ratified the agreement.

Canadian legislators who signed the open letter:

  • Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP
  • Alexandre Boulerice, Deputy Leader of the NDP,
  • Tracey Ramsey, NDP MP, Critic for Justice and International Trade
  • Brigitte Sansoucy, NDP MP
  • Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
  • Paul Manly, Green Party MP
  • Catherine Dorion, Québec solidaire MNA, Spokesperson for the 2nd opposition on international and solidarity relations
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