The focus this week in the European Parliament was clearly on foreign trade: first, the decision on CETA was postponed to have more time for an in-depth discussion on the Agreement; then EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was invited to a joint meeting of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the International Trade Committee.

The initial intention was to make a decision on CETA, the controversial Free Trade Agreement of EU with Canada, before Christmas, both in the competent committee and in the plenum. However, given this rate, an in-depth discussion of the Agreement and the supplemental submissions would have been hardly possible. Apart from that, other expert committees of the Parliament, for example the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, would have had neither the time for a detailed consideration of the impact, the Agreement would have on their sector, nor for a respective statement. It attracted even more criticism, when Parliament last week rejected to consult the ECJ before a vote on CETA, with regard to whether the new Investment Court System ICS was at all compatible with current EU law; a concern which was raised by the German Association of Judges.

European Parliament takes decision on CETA on 2nd January

Now, criticism has been taken into account and Parliament will be taking more time. The Committees on Employment, the Environment, Foreign Affairs, Transport as well as Economic and Financial Affairs shall be given the opportunity to submit specialist statements, whereupon the Committee on International Trade shall vote on 24th January and all of the European Parliament on 2nd February. Critics welcomed this step as an important concession not to push through CETA as an expedited procedure.

The Chamber of Labour continues to be critical of CETA also because of the planned investment courts; as President Rudi Kaske pointed out: “In constitutional democracies such as Austria and Canada, it is possible to rely on public courts.” Apart from that, there is cause for concern, as the planned cooperation with regard to the regulation between the EU and Canada lowers important protective standards for employees, consumers and the environment.

Malmström: CETA helps European Agriculture

This week, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, who had been invited to a joint meeting by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development and the International Trade Committee, also talked about CETA in the European Parliament. First, she generally emphasised the importance of trade for European Agriculture: according to the Trade Commissioner, exports of primary products safeguard 1.4 million jobs in the EU, whilst exports of industrially processed food would safeguard another 650,000. Overall, exports of agricultural goods would not only account for 7 % of all exports of the EU, but were steadily rising. With regard to CETA, Ms Malmström argued that currently tariffs of 10-20 % would be levied on these products in Canada; however, based on the Agreement, 94 % of these would no longer apply, which means that European Agriculture would have improved competitive opportunities on the Canadian market.

Further information:

Press release: “Kaske: 'We remain critical of CETA‘“ (German)

Speech of Commissioner Malmström verbatim

CETA fact check (German)

Artikel im „Kurier“ über die CETA-Verschiebung im EP (German)