The European Union has approved a contentious free trade deal with Canada eight years after negotiations began.
It involves the removal of import duties that supporters say will boost growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
European Parliament lawmakers backed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by 408-254.
mrsheathermays) <a href="https://twitter.com/mrsheathermays/status/831826979049463808">February 15, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">CETA: EU on the verge of approving trade deal with Canada <a href="https://t.co/ezEuVvEZX1">https://t.co/ezEuVvEZX1</a> <a href="https://t.co/wHg8AyJpf8">pic.twitter.com/wHg8AyJpf8</a></p>— Heather Mays (mrsheathermays) February 15, 2017
Anger over foreign investors protection
CETA has been the focus of demonstrations in Europe led by trade unions and protest groups. They believe it will lead to a race to the bottom in employment and environmental standards and allow multinational corporations to dictate public policy.
The chief point of contention is the deal’s system to protect foreign investors, which critics say can lead to cases such as Philip Morris’s challenge, albeit unsuccessful, against plain tobacco packaging in Australia.
Supporters say the right to regulate is enshrined in the treaty and CETA is an improvement because it replaces closed arbitration panels with transparent and independent courts to settle disputes.
Trade between the EU and Canada amounts to more than €60bn a year, and the EU expects the CETA deal to increase business by 20 percent by removing almost all tariffs.
For Canada the deal is important to reduce its reliance on the neighbouring United States as an export market.
For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G7 country and a success at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating from Britain’s vote last June to leave the bloc.