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French Senate votes against Canada-European Union free trade agreement

Photo: Frederick Florin Archives Agence France-Presse A person holds a sign against the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in front of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, in February 2017, the year the treaty was adopted .

Antoine Magnan – Agence France-Presse in Paris

March 21, 2024

  • Europe

The French Senate voted Thursday against the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA or CETA, in English) thanks to a convenient alliance of left-right oppositions, putting jeopardizes the ratification of this agreement against a backdrop of agricultural crisis, a major shock for the French government.

In an extremely tense climate, senators rejected by 211 votes to 44 the article of the bill relating to this treaty, applied provisionally since 2017, but never submitted to the upper house. They then confirmed this rejection with a final vote.

The blow was struck at the initiative of the communist group with the support of the right, the treaty, signed in 2016 and adopted in 2017 at the European level, being much criticized in France, in a climate marked by the agricultural crisis and tense around European issues before the European elections in June.

It’s “a political thunderclap”, a “democratic victory”, savored communist senator Fabien Gay.

The Minister for Foreign Trade Franck Riester denounced “a crude maneuver, an unacceptable manipulation with serious consequences for our country” and “a disastrous signal” for Canada.

“It is simply a political coup that the communists, the socialists, with the support of the Republicans, are carrying out in the middle of the European election campaign to the detriment of the general interest,” he said. added.

Return to the Assembly

This rejection by the Senate alone is not enough to denounce the agreement on a European scale, but the setbacks of the French government on this sensitive subject are far from over.

The communist deputies announced that they would include this text in their parliamentary time reserved for the National Assembly on May 30, ten days before the European elections.

The deputies had narrowly approved the ratification of CETA in 2019, but the presidential camp lost the absolute majority at the Palais Bourbon, which augurs a possible rejection of the text.

In this hypothesis, the equation would then become very complex: either the government notifies Brussels that it cannot ratify the treaty and this leads to the end of its provisional application for all of Europe; or he procrastinates at the risk of attracting the wrath of the opposition who will cry out for democratic denial.

Currently, ten Member States have not completed the ratification process and only one has rejected it: Cyprus. But Nicosia never notified this rejection, which allows the agreement to continue to apply.

“Good choice”

The government has gone out of its way to try to convince people of the merits of this agreement which eliminates most of the customs duties between the EU and Canada, citing the increase in exports and the benefits for the wine and dairy sectors.< /p>

In a column published by the economic daily Les Échos, several employers' organizations including the most important, Medef, also praised the “results “conclusive evidence” of the treaty in seven years of provisional application, emphasizing the figures for French exports to Canada, which jumped by 33% between 2017 and 2023.

But the discontent of the agricultural world seemed more convincing in the eyes of the senatorial right, who overwhelmingly voted against the text.

The president of the National Bovine Federation (FNB), Patrick Bénézit, welcomed the rejection as “good news”. The senators made “the right choice”, by rejecting “a treaty which authorizes foodstuffs which do not respect our production conditions”, he told AFP.

Long-time opponents of this treaty, French cattle breeders cite in particular the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, banned in the European Union.

The left-wing opposition opposed it as a whole, with the socialist group notably singling out an agreement “in total contradiction with our environmental commitments” according to its senator Didier Marie.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116