Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

France's senators could oppose Thursday the ratification of the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, implemented in large part since 2017.

The Canada-Europe Agreement in Danger ?” /></p>
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<p class=A poster against free trade agreements, including that with Canada, installed in a French field, in 2019.

  • Raphaël Bouvier -Auclair (View profile)Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

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Communist senator Fabien Gay promises a real “clap of thunder” on Thursday. After years of waiting, the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union will finally be put to a vote… and could well be defeated.

The trade agreement between Ottawa and the European bloc, signed in 2016, has been applied provisionally since 2017. More than 99% of customs duties have been removed on industrial goods, while in the case of agricultural products , Canada and the European Union have lifted more than 90% of their tariffs.

For the agreement to apply definitively, it must be ratified by all member countries of the European Union. So far 17 legislatures, including those of Germany and Sweden, have given the green light. But in 10 other countries, including France and Italy, the process is not complete.

In France, the National Assembly had approved the agreement by a narrow majority in 2019, but the Senate had still not ruled.

Today, these treaties which were imagined thirty years ago are obsolete in a social and environmental way. It is not possible for products to continue to circle the planet three times, communist elected official Fabien Gay declared last week at a press conference, making his opposition to the text clear.

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The French Senate must vote on the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada on Thursday.

Its position echoes that of certain agricultural groups, such as the Confédération paysanne, which, in 2022, denounced an agreement which organizes an international competition which drives prices down to the detriment of social and environmental standards.

In addition to left-wing elected officials, senators from the right-wing Republican party have also suggested that they might not give the green light to the ratification of the agreement .

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We are for free trade, but loyal, declared the leader of Republicans in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau.

After about seven years of partial application, the economist at the Center for Prospective Studies and International Information ( CEPII) Charlotte Emlinger nevertheless believes that France has managed to do well from a commercial point of view.

When we look at the trade at the French level, we see that we have rather been a winner, she assures.

According to a report from the French Ministry of the Economy, between 2017 and 2023, French exports to Canada increased by 33%, while imports from Canada to France saw a jump by 35%.

Economist Charlotte Emlinger gives the example of French cheese, which saw a 57% increase in its exports between 2016 and 2022, in particular due to appellation protections on Canadian territory.

In return, she recalls that the Canadian cattle sector, which worried many French farmers, has not greatly increased its presence on European territory, due to quotas and the imposition of standards. Canada does not even fill its beef quota, specifies the economist.

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The crisis which is shaking the agricultural world in several European countries is having political repercussions in France. On Monday, President Macron brought together his ministers to take stock and his government promised farmers new measures to try to meet their demands.

In In this case, why such opposition? As the European elections approach in June, the political context would be an important part of the answer.

It is rather a political posture which is part of the discontent of farmers and the fear of other agreements which will perhaps be more impactful for agriculture , believes Charlotte Emlinger. For example, it recalls the fears of many farmers and politicians regarding the free trade agreement currently being negotiated with Mercosur, a group of Latin American countries.

The Mercosur group is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. It is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union.

The French government, which says it opposes this agreement with Mercosur, nevertheless defends the ratification of the agreement concluded with Canada.

That [a rejection] risks sending a devastating message to Canada, a friendly country.

A quote from Franck Riester, Minister of Foreign Trade of France

On the television channel BFM Business, the French Minister of Foreign Trade defended a structured agreement, which, according to him, also allows Europe to build its strategic autonomy by having easier access to hydrocarbons and Canadian metals.

If senators decide not to ratify the deal on Thursday, a chain reaction could follow.

The National Assembly, which approved the agreement in 2019, could be called upon to rule again. However, since then, legislative elections have greatly transformed the political landscape and President Emmanuel Macron's coalition no longer has an absolute majority.

Already in 2019, despite the majority, the agreement was narrowly approved due to abstentions within the presidential camp. Given the new configuration of the Assembly, the possibility of rejection by the deputies therefore seems much more likely than five years ago.

On the airwaves of BFM Business, Minister Franck Riester mentioned a possible recourse to a legislative procedure to avoid coming to such a decision, which, according to the newspaper Le Monde, could ultimately force the European Commission to suspend the provisional application of the agreement.

But rejection by a national parliament does not necessarily mean the end of the agreement. Thus, in 2020, elected officials in Cyprus largely opposed the ratification of the treaty, but as the government did not officially notify Brussels of this decision, the survival of the agreement was not threatened.

Professor of political science at the University of Antwerp Dirk de Bièvre moderates the impacts that the decision of French elected officials will have in Europe.< /p>

According to him, since the European Parliament and the Council have given the green light to the agreement, its provisional application could continue, by virtue of the sharing of powers between Brussels and its member states. A somewhat bizarre situation at the legal level, recognizes the academic.

What is important in the facts is the fact that provisional application of the treaty. So, we are already reducing the barriers to trade, judges Dirk de Bièvre. French company sends a message regarding this agreement.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Council President Donald Tusk attend the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, October 30, 2016.

In 2016, the signing ceremony of the agreement between Justin Trudeau and European leaders had to be postponed by a few days, due to the opposition from elected officials from Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium.

Nearly seven years later, it is in France that discontent is being heard.

Will the thunderclap announced in the Senate resonate possibly as far as Brussels, or even as far as Ottawa?

One ​​thing is certain, it will take time before we realize the impacts of the vote. Recent years have proven that when it comes to free trade agreements, things are far from happening at lightning speed.

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