The next few months are crucial if Canada and the European Union are to approve a deal that will boost trade by 20 per cent between the two countries.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been struck between Canadian officials and the European Commission, but now the two sides must return to their respective democratic bodies to get it ratified.
For Canada that means getting it through parliament, which is not expected to be an issue.
And while the deal would also likely get through the European parliament, the Commission has to decide whether it can be done at that level, or whether the 28 individual states should be allowed to take it through their own democratic systems.
Should it decide on the latter problems could arise. One of Belgium’s four parliaments is against the deal, while Bulgaria and Romania are also reluctant to sign because Canada is refusing to extend visa-free travel to their citizens.
Central figures on both sides have expressed concerns over the damage that would be done if the two close allies cannot agree on the CETA deal.
Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said: “If the EU cannot do a deal with Canada, I think it is legitimate to say who the heck can it do a deal with.”
EU Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmstrom agreed. “If the two closest allies in the world cannot agree a deal, then who can?” she said.
Malmstrom is pushing for the various clearances to be in place by October, when Justin Trudeau makes a scheduled trip to Brussels. She is frustrated by politicians supporting the deal at EU meetings, before expressing negative opinions in their home countries.
“We can’t have local referendums on all trade agreements,” Malmstrom added.
Other opponents include campaign groups in Austria and Germany, who say CETA – and a similar US deal – would hand even more power to big businesses. Demonstrations continue in both countries, while the Dutch also showed anti-trade deal appetite by voting down a Ukraine agreement in an April referendum.
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