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French ambassador says pushing CETA would boost right-wing populism in Europe

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There's a curious Canadian Press article about Justin Trudeau's upcoming visit to Europe and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Canadian Press reporter Jordan Press writes, "Canada already has a trade deal with Europe, most of which kicked in last year, eliminating tariffs on numerous goods. But a small part of the deal still needs to be ratified by each member of the European Union."

Though the article oddly never mentions what that "small part" is, it's the controversial investment court system (ICS), a version of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism still found in the NAFTA 2.0 agreement (against Mexico) and in the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Canadian Press adds, "Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who now specializes in international business as a partner with law firm McCarthy Tetrault, said if enough countries approve the remaining portions, the deal becomes irreversible. A large European player such as France, Germany or Italy would likely seal the deal."

That's not entirely true.

The European Commission's website states, "EU governments, supported by the European Commission, have agreed that they will only put the Investment Court System into practice once all EU countries have finished their national ratification procedures."

The article then notes, "The unsteady political situation in Italy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's recent move toward retirement leave France as Canada's only option to nail down the agreement quickly before European elections in the spring, Charest said."

First of all, the article does not explain the "unsteady political situation" in Italy. As I've noted in this rabble.ca blog, Italy now has a far-right, nationalist, anti-immigrant government that opposes "free trade" deals, including CETA.

Secondly, for specificity, the next election for a 705-member European Parliament (reduced in size because of the United Kingdom's exit from the EU) will take place more than six months from now from May 23 to May 26, 2019.

And then a few short paragraphs later, the article quotes France's ambassador to Canada Kareen Rispal commenting on CETA and those European Union elections, "It's a very tricky campaign. If we have CETA in the campaign, we think it's not a good idea."

That's because, according to Rispal, European elections are "a call for all the populists."

So even though this article omits key points, it suggests between the lines that while Charest pushes for the ratification of the "investment protection" provision in CETA, a European political representative appears at least somewhat aware that "free trade" agreements undermine "liberal democracy" and that moving forward with CETA at this time would boost the fortunes of right-wing "populism" in the EU parliamentary elections.

As Trudeau's trip in France begins, it could be interesting to check out any statements he makes about CETA, liberal democracy, and populism.

Brent Patterson is a writer and political activist.

Image: Naturefriends Greece/Twitter

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