CETA and the “Battle of Battle of Wolfsburg”

19 09 2016

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The fate of the proposed trade deal between Canada and the EU will depend on the outcome of a political fight in Germany that Politico.eu has dubbed the Battle of Wolfsburg. The German city of Wolfsburg is primarily associated with one of that country’s most famous exports, the Volkswagen. Right now, though, all eyes are focused on the city because it is hosting a conference at which 250 delegates from the Social Democratic party will vote on whether to approve the trade deal between the EU and Canada. The SPD is split on the issue of CETA: the left-wing of the party is generally opposed and sees the agreement as essentially the same as the proposed trade deal between the EU and the US, an agreement that is widely opposed by centre-left people in Europe. (For BBC coverage of the massive protests against CETA, see here). The more moderate faction of the SPD favours the trade agreement with Canada and is seeking the approval of the convention for it.  If the German parliament fails to ratify the deal, the agreement is unlikely to take effect.

Canada’s very capable minister of International Trade,  Chrystia Freeland understands the importance of the Volksburg conference and will attend. It appears that the Canadian government’s strategy for convincing European social democrats of the value of the agreement is to stress that Canada is different from the US and shares the values of the EU nations. She has just released a joint statement with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in which CETA is described as a “progressive agreement” filled with social-protection clauses. It will be very interesting to see whether this argument is persuasive.

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