Germany's top court gave the go-ahead on Thursday for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to approve a controversial trade deal between the European Union and Canada.
Opponents of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and the world's 10th biggest economy had appealed to the Constitutional Court to stop the German government from approving the agreement at a meeting of EU trade ministers next Tuesday.
A court decision backing the opponents' call would have derailed plans for ratifying CETA and throw the future of the deal into doubt, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told court president Andreas Vosskuhle and a panel of judges on Wednesday.
The Karlsruhe-based court issued the verdict less than 24 hours after also hearing arguments from critics - which included Germany's hard-left party, Die Linke, the citizens' action group More Democracy and the consumer organization Foodwatch - representing tens of thousands of opponents.
CETA is to be formally signed at a summit of EU leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Brussels on October 27.
The summit would then launch the ratification process with all of the EU's national parliaments as well as the Canadian parliament having to agree to the accord.
However, CETA critics fear that the agreement could provisionally come into force in the EU before the approval of national parliaments, with the European Parliament likely to consider the deal possibly by the end of the year.
EU and Canadian leaders argue that by abolishing tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers, the agreement will help to stimulate economic growth and create jobs.
But CETA opponents claim the trade deal will lower the EU's consumer and environmental standards and that the negotiations were held behind closed doors.
The EU is Canada's second most important trading partner after the United States.
Consequently, CETA is also considered by officials as helping set the stage for plans for a more controversial trade deal between the EU and the US, which is facing even stiffer opposition on both sides of he Atlantic.
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