French MPs approve EU-Canada Free Trade Agreement after tense debate

French MPs approved Tuesday the ratification of the controversial free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (Ceta), “positive” for the economy according to its supporters, but carrying “risks” environmental and health for its opponents.
Partially entered into force shortly two years ago, this treaty was approved by 266 votes to 213 and 74 abstentions to the National Assembly, after bitter debates.

Rejected by almost all the opposition, left and right, the text aroused reluctance within the presidential party Republic in March (LREM), of which 52 deputies abstained and 9 voted against. A dispute never seen since the election of Emmanuel Macron in May 2017.

Former LREM member Matthieu Orphelin sees it as a “clear and clear political warning”: “If the next trade agreements do not respect more the climate, the biodiversity and our farmers, they will not pass!”

“The result is there,” concluded Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, adding that “we will be very vigilant in the implementation of this agreement.”

Negotiated for more than seven years, CETA – the CETA – was approved by the European Parliament in February 2017. It must be ratified by the 38 national and regional assemblies in Europe.

After the green light of the French National Assembly, it will be the turn of the Senate, upper house of Parliament, to decide, a date that remains to be defined. Thirteen States, including Spain and the United Kingdom, have already ratified it.

Health risk

Ceta, which notably removes tariffs on 98% of products traded between the two zones, is strongly criticized in France by farmers and NGOs. They fear unfair competition as well as a health risk for Europe, since Canada does not have the same stringent standards as the Old Continent, particularly with regard to animal meat.

The Nicolas Hulot Foundation and the Veblen Institute on Tuesday blasted “an incomprehensible decision in light of the cluster of updated threats.”

Former Green Transition Minister Nicolas Hulot called on parliamentarians in an open letter Monday to have “the courage to say no” to this treaty, which in his view could open the door to dangerous substances as a result. a lowering of health standards.

The examination of the text by the deputies last Wednesday had given rise to nearly 10 hours of lively exchanges, late into the night.

While Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had praised an “important agreement” in a “worrying” world climate, the opposition pointed to the double risk that Ceta would pose on beef: “sanitary And “destabilization of the industry”.

Several other opposition politicians were also worried about the importation of meat fed by animal meal prohibited in France.

“Fake news,” retorted the chairman of the Committee on Economic Affairs Roland Lescure (LREM).

“There have been a lot of myths around this text,” commented EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Tuesday.

Chance of the calendar, the vote on this agreement judged by some anti-ecological took place the day of the visit to the Assembly of Greta Thunberg, young muse of the climatic fight.

“We can not invite Greta in the morning and vote for Ceta in the evening,” responded the leader of the sovereignist party “Debout France” Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

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