Germany’s Constitutional Court has cleared the way for the government to approve a trade accord between the EU and Canada.
It boosts the agreement’s chances of passing an EU vote next week.
What has happened?
The court in Karlsruhe has rejected emergency appeals by activists to prevent the government from backing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
The sticking points
The court – Germany’s highest – said the government must ensure that only the parts of CETA within the competence of the EU, such as the removal of tariffs, should be allowed to apply before it is ratified by member states.
Court president Andreas Vosskuhle said it must be possible for Germany to unilaterally terminate the provisional application of the accord.
This effectively inserts safety clauses allowing the government to back out of the deal if it contravenes Germany’s constitution.
What is CETA?
CETA is widely seen as a possible blueprint for TTIP, the larger trade deal the EU has been negotiating with the US.
CETA aims to immediately eliminate tariffs on 98% of goods.
It encompasses the areas of:
- Regulatory cooperation
- Sustainable development
- Access to government tenders
The argument for CETA
Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has championed the agreement as Europe’s best chance to shape the changing rules of global trade.
“I am very pleased that we have made a first, big step, because if Europe were not able to deal with Canada, this would send a difficult signal to the world,” Gabriel said.
The argument against CETA
Opponents argue the deal is undemocratic and will undermine workers’ rights and worsen standards for customers.
“The court is not simply waving through the provisional application but has formulated strict requirements. This shows that the government has taken the implications of the agreement for democracy too lightly,” said Thilo Bode from the consumer rights organisation, Foodwatch.
When will CETA be voted on?
EU trade ministers are due to vote on the accord next week. Brussels and Ottawa then hope to sign it on October 27.
Will it then be finally approved?
It requires unanimous support from member states.
The European Parliament would also need to vote to allow parts of it to go into force.
Southern Belgium is set to block the deal, while backing from Slovenia remains uncertain.
Austria’s chancellor, however, has struck a concilatory tone, saying many of his concerns have been addressed.