EU members still unsure about CETA

European countries still could not reach an agreement concerning Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). They are undecided on what components of the agreement could be applied and at which time. Leaked notes of the meeting chaired by Jean Luc Demarty, the trade director general of CETA, reveal that a minimum of six European nations continue to suggest amendments or to reserve right to request any further changs to CETA.

Canada and then EU

The notes say that those nations were told that Canada would not sign unless the European countries took the decision to agree to provisionally apply those measures, as the final steps to the complete ratification stretched out. It is to be noted that the ratification process is quite simple- the Liberal government of Canada headed by Justin Trudeau could easily pass the implementation bill with a majority. Canada’s territories and provinces have concurred as well. In Europe, however, the situation is vastly different.

The subsequent step for European Union is to seek approval of European Council. To do this, the heads of all the 28 member states are scheduled to meet over two days-October 20 and October 21. In case, they approve CETA, Trudeau would come to Brussels for the signing ceremony to be held during the last week of October. Theproblem is that three EU nations have expressed their unwillingness to sign.

European opposition

The Walloon region of Belgium has stiffly opposed CETA. Bulgaria and Romania have cited unresolved visa issues which have stopped them from signing. Greece also has a problem. It continues to be unsatisfied with the limits of defining cheese as “Feta”. Poland also has a grudge and has said that it was not confident about how the judges will be appointed to new investor court.

The signing could be derailed if there is opposition among the council. Decisions are arrived at by consensus. Officials, however, have said that instead of blocking, countries who feel that they cannot endorse, could abstain. A senior official said that there has never been a situation where any member state has consciously rejected any trade agreement after it is finalized.

Post official signing, the EU parliament could vote, probably in the latter part of 2016 or in early 2017. It is to be noted that passage is not automatic. The EU Commission had already decided that CETA can be considered a “mixed” agreement. It needs a third stage for its ratification.

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