CETA update

10 November 2016

EU trade ministers approved CETA on 28 October. The agreement was officially signed at a EU-Canada Summit on 30 October, together with a joint interpretative instrument between the two partners. EU Member States and institutions also adopted a series of statements and declarations that complement the agreement.

This means we now have the final CETA text ready for thorough parliamentary scrutiny. The process has already started - in reality, the European Parliament has been following the negotiations over the last 7 years - and will culminate in a consent vote where MEPs will make  a yes/no call without the possibility to amend the text.

This vote will take place in February 2017. If MEPs consent to CETA, parts of the agreement will be provisionally implemented. But other parts including the infamous investor-state tribunal - known as ICS, or Investment Court System - can only enter into force once all 28 EU member states have ratified the deal.

A vote in the national parliament is mandatory to ratify EU trade deals although in the UK this has often been a rubber-stamping government decisions. If one member states vote against the agreement, then it would fall and provisional application would be terminated.

While the text of the agreement was already made public before the trade ministers’ decision on 28 October, the various statements and declarations that were adopted on that day are all new. We’re still in the process of analysing carefully their content and there is a lot to process, but we can already highlight three very significant elements:

- Three EU countries (Belgium, Poland and Slovenia) have called for amendments to the investment protection chapter. Belgium has actually announced that it will not ratify CETA if the chapter is not changed.

- Belgium has also announced that it will ask the European Court of Justice for an opinion on the compatibility of the proposed ICS mechanism with EU treaties. There are serious doubts that ICS respects EU non-discrimination rules. A negative ruling of the ECJ would terminate CETA.  Asking the European Court of Justice for a legal check could have also been done by the European Parliament. A vote was taken in November 2016. Paul and Jude supported the referral to the court but it was defeated by a majority of MEPs.

- The Commission has committed to adopt binding decisions together with Canada to strengthen labour and environmental provisions in the agreement, and in particular to make labour standards binding and enforceable.

Labour MEPs have taken a strong, principled stance on trade issues from the start of the parliamentary term, including opposition to investor-state dispute settlement tribunals and protection for public services from trade agreements. We judge each agreement on  it's merits, and we will adopt a voting position following proper scrutiny of CETA as finally concluded. 

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