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January 25, 2017

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EU-Canada trade deal clears key hurdle

A contested EU-Canada free trade deal cleared a key hurdle yesterday as EU lawmakers defied rising anti-globalization sentiment to back one of Europe’s most ambitious accords.

Members of the European Parliament’s powerful trade committee voted 25 in favor of the deal, known as CETA, with 15 against, during a heated session in Brussels that was interrupted by a protestor.

CETA now goes to a showdown vote in a full session of the European Parliament on February 15, where the European Union leadership hopes for a symbolic show of support for a global trade system in the face of rising protectionism championed by US President Donald Trump.

“Those who, in the 21st century, think that we can become great again by rebuilding borders, reimposing trade barriers, restricting people’s freedom to move, are doomed to fail,” Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU’s top trade negotiator, said in a speech shortly after the vote.

If all goes well next month, the deal could be partially implemented as early as March, Malmstroem added.

Boosters of CETA describe it as a new kind of deal that not only breaks the usual barriers but enshrines high standards for international trade.

“With CETA, we are rejecting unfettered globalization and laying the foundations for a new era of rules-based trade,” said social democrat MEP David Martin, a key backer of the deal.

But CETA’s opponents slam it as a gift to multinationals which will use the deal to lower health and environmental standards and circumvent government regulation.

“It’s a defeat,” Greens MEP and French presidential candidate Yannick Jadot said.

“The European Parliament has ignored all the lessons of Trump’s victory and the Brexit vote in giving more power to corporations and reducing the power of citizens,” Jadot said.


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