Wednesday 10 August 2022

Senate backs CETA trade deal after Labour drops opposition

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau at a European Council meeting about Ceta. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis via Depositphotos

The upper house has voted to ratify the CETA trade treaty between the European Union and Canada after the Labour Party (PvdA) dropped its opposition to the deal.

Labour senator Ruud Koole signalled the party’s change of heart in an article in the Volkskrant earlier this week in which he said the current global situation meant Europe could not afford to exclude Canada as a trade partner.

Despite objections from some party members, Koole said the party’s six senators had decided to support CETA ‘because it strengthens the position of Europe in an unstable world and represents a big step forward towards a sustainable economy.’

The treaty has been in force since 2017 but still has to be ratified by some EU member states. The lower house voted narrowly in favour two years ago, but the four coalition parties do not have a majority in the Senate.

The treaty removes import tariffs on a number of goods between Europe and Canada, but opponents say it will lead to unfair competition in sectors such as agriculture, where Europe has stricter environmental regulations.

There is also concern about the arbitration system set up to rule on disputes between the countries, which opponents say undermines domestic law.

Unusually, opposition to the treaty has united the agriculture lobby and the animal rights party PvdD, who are concerned about the impact on animal welfare.

It is also likely to create tension between the PvdA and its left-wing ally GroenLinks, which remains opposed to Ceta on environmental grounds. The PvdA and GL said last month that they will field a joint list of candidates for the new senate when it is chosen by provincial assembly delegates next May.

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