EU trade ministers try to settle on Canada deal despite protests

EU trade ministers were meeting Friday to sort out differences about a free trade deal with Canada, as the bloc prepares to sign the agreement in October despite some public opposition.

The discussion around the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has grown increasingly politicized as it becomes swept up in the debate about a larger EU deal currently in negotiation with the United States. On Saturday, an estimated 320,000 rallied across Germany to protest the two deals.

Now the EU is weighing an extra declaration with Canada that "could calm some of the concerns," Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in Bratislava ahead of the ministers' talks.

"A few, but very important, countries have a few difficulties," she said. "I hope that we will approach a moment when ... they can feel that there is a process, so that they can [go] home and explain to their citizens."

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel spoke in favour of CETA in Bratislava despite vocal opposition to the deal in his country.

"People finally want to see that we impose rules on globalization and that it does not put unbridled pressure on people. And for this, CETA is a giant step forward," Gabriel said.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner also argued that "possible questions on interpretation can be settled with a legally binding declaration." But the Social Democratic party of Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has demanded changes to CETA.

There is, however, little appetite in the EU for a renegotiation.

"CETA is done, we will not reopen it," Malmstrom said.

The EU hopes to sign the agreement when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits on October 27.

Last update: Fri, 23/09/2016 - 13:21

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