World Economy

CETA to Replace Dying TTIP

Recent protests in Germany against TTIP.Recent protests in Germany against TTIP.

EU ministers are clearing up the final points of contention in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement free trade agreement with Canada. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks with the US, however, seem to have broken down for good.  

One might say that German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel was almost passionate: “CETA puts people up front, and not just the economic success of a few,” DW reported.

The treaty could in fact become the standard for other trade agreements. It is the first treaty to create reasonable rules for globalization, thus the German politician said, it could serve as an example of how global trade can be shaped.

At dinner Thursday, European ministers and their Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland agreed to remove all doubt from the treaty’s final text. Both sides want to nail down sticking points—such as securing workers’ rights, guarantees for the independence of arbitration courts and ensuring that there is no pressure to privatize public services—in a legally binding supplemental statement.

With the statement, they seek to dispel the doubts expressed by various social democratic parties in the EU, such as in Belgian Wallonia and in Austria. “Now (Austrian Chancellor Christian) Kern will have to see how he can get himself out of this one,” joked the country’s economic minister, Reinhold Mitterlehner, in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Mitterlehner is a member of the Austrian People’s Party, the chancellor’s conservative coalition partner. Sigmar Gabriel, who had to make positive assurances to his own Social Democratic Party, is now coming out strongly in support of the treaty.

A number of hurdles still have to be cleared before the treaty can go into effect. Trade ministers hope to formally adopt the CETA on October 18, and it is to be signed by all member states at the EU-Canada summit at the end of the month. After that it will have to be ratified by 28 national parliaments, a process that can take time.

Nonetheless, those portions of the agreement that fall under European purview could go into effect as early as the beginning of next year. That is when the European Parliament intends to vote on the treaty.