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Lone dissenter Alfred Sant votes against EU-Canada deal... and against party line

Labour Party MEP Alfred Sant says that trade agreements with Canada and the US serve mostly to further strengthen the big corporations who dominate the planet

matthew_agius
Matthew Agius
18 February 2017, 2:49pm
MEP Alfred Sant went against his party's and parliamentary group's instructions and voted against EU agreement with Canada
MEP Alfred Sant went against his party's and parliamentary group's instructions and voted against EU agreement with Canada
Any economic and trade agreement between the European Union and Canada or the United States would mainly serve to “further strengthen large enterprises that dominate our planet”, while undermining European farming efforts and workers’ rights, Maltese Labour MEP Alfred Sant claimed this week.

In a vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday, the Maltese lone dissenter voted against a proposed EU agreement with Canada, joining 65 other Social Democrat members of the European Parliament who went against the instructions of the parliamentary group.

The Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) aims to eliminate 98% of tariffs on exported goods, making it the EU’s most far-reaching trade deal to date.

Trade between the two sides amounts to more than €60 billion a year, and the EU expects the deal to boost this figure by 20%.

It says the agreement will facilitate the export of goods and services and benefit people and businesses in both the EU and Canada.

Sant said he voted against the trade agreement because he was unable to see how socialists could endorse a treaty opposed by the majority of worker unions and civil and consumer rights’ groups in both the EU and Canada.

In a recent video on his YouTube channel, he explained the reasons behind his opposition to CETA.

The Canada – EU trade agreement has been under discussion for several years. Sant said that regulations and differing standards often meant that items manufactured in the EU cannot be sold in Canada and vice versa, therefore an agreement on technical or commercial specifications was hoped to help trade.

“But whilst the deal is expected to help boost trade, at the same time the EU was also negotiating the controversial TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) deal with America which threatened several industrial sectors,” he said.

Sant said it was feared the EU would have to adopt American standards and management practises that continue to erode worker's rights.

“It is feared that EU farm production could be undermined by American produce and that environmental safeguards would be threatened by American competition, especially in the energy sector and that culture and TV steamrollered by Hollywood were also factors,” he said.

Sant said the ensuing and ongoing controversy over the propesed treaty with the US had spread to the trade agreement with Canada.

“And although Canada is closer culturally and values-wise to Europe, if the arguments against TTIP are valid don't they also count against Canada?” the MEP asked.

Sant said the solution to the controversy should be tied to the spread of globalisation which, he insisted, was changing the world into a single market. This development had brought with it many benefits but had also caused damages and suffering, he argued.

“The way things stand, it appears to me that agreements like CETA and TTIP serve most to further strengthen large enterprises that dominate our planet,” he concluded

CETA vote reveals divide between French, German socialists

The European Parliament’s vote on ratifying CETA revealed the deep divisions among socialists across the EU, in particular in the “engine of Europe” – France and Germany.

408 MEPs overall voted in favour of the agreement and 254 against; 33 abstained. CETA will now face the hurdle of being ratified by the 28 member states; the ratification process varies from country to country, with some requesting approval in national parliaments.

The centre-right EPP (European Popular Party) was largely united, with only five out of 206 MEPs voting against. Seven of its members abstained, a majority of which were French MEPs.

But in the centre-left S&D group, out of a total of 174 MEPs who voted, 66 voted against CETA – and against the instructions of their party group – and 13 abstained.

All French socialists against Canada agreement

More interestingly, all 13 French socialist MEPs voted against, while German MEPs were largely in favour, with only five out of 24 German SPD MEPs voting against, while a further three abstained.

All Austrian, Belgian, Czech and Polish socialists voted against, while the lone Irish, Latvian and Slovenian socialist MEPs also registered negative votes.

Conversely, all Croatian, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Romanian and the only Estonian and Luxembourgish MEPs voted in favour.

The other countries showed a mixed bag of results. Greek, Maltese, Portuguese, Slovak and Spanish socialists were predominantly pro-CETA, while the UK’s Labour Party MEPs were quite divided.

matthew_agius
Court reporter Matthew Agius is a Legal Procurator and Commissioner for Oaths. Prior to re...