A crucial vote
The political future of Germany’s vice chancellor may hinge on the outcome of a vote next week by his Social Democrats (SPD) over whether to back a trade deal between the EU and Canada.
SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has championed the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) as part of his remit as economy minister.
His centre-left party is understood to be keen to prove its business credentials.
CETA vs TTIP
Sigmar Gabriel ruffled feathers last month when he said talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) had “de facto” failed.
However, he views CETA, due to be signed by Brussels and Ottawa next month prior to full ratification by EU member states’ parliaments, as a chance for the West to set new standards for trade deals and act as a counter-weight to China’s economic might.
What do the critics say?
They are sceptical about the benefits of both deals.
Some think it would give multinational companies greater access to European markets without creating jobs.
Vote due on Monday
Delegates at Monday’s SPD convention will vote on the CETA accord.
A failure to win a majority in favour could scupper Gabriel’s chances of standing as the party’s candidate for chancellor in national elections next year.
Analysts say it could also unleash a dangerous power struggle within the party.
The SPD is the junior partner in the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
Analysts say rejecting the CETA could further upset the balance within the coalition.
Merkel is looking to the SPD to counter a growing rift between her CDU party and its conservative CSU allies in Bavaria over her refugee policy.
They say a majority SPD vote in favour of CETA would give Gabriel a much-needed shot-in-the-arm.
Protests crank up the pressure
Opponents of CETA and TTIP organised demonstrations against both agreements in seven cities across Germany on Saturday.
The organisers expected more than 250,000 to attend.
What they are saying
“If he loses the vote and if he decided to step down on the back of it, then there will be chaos,” – Gero Neugebauer, Berlin Free University.