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Gabriel confident on CETA

September 16, 2016

The draft Canada-EU free trade deal will be backed by Germany's SPD party, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has forecast while visiting Montreal. Only "clarifications" were needed, he added.

Kanada Sigmar Gabriel und Justin Trudeau
Image: Reuters/C. Muschi

Speaking at a press conference alongside Canada's trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, Gabriel said that the CETA treaty was the "most progressive" imaginable and he was confident a German Social Democrat (SPD) conference on Monday would back it.

Strong opposition has emerged in Germany and other European countries to the planned pact, widely seen as a precursor to a larger deal with the US, with large demonstrations due Saturday in major German cities.

Among the opponents to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is Germany's DGB trade union federation, a traditional supporter of Gabriel's historically center-left SPD.

SPD delegates meet in Wolfsburg in northern Germany on Monday, but the party base is unconvinced that the elimination of almost all restrictive tariffs on goods and services, agreed in principle in 2014, will bring societal benefits.

On Wednesday, European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said CETA was crucial for job creation in Europe. Some 30 million jobs in Europe are dependent on exports to the rest of the world, he added.

Deutschland Karlsruhe Menschenkette gegen CETA
125,000 objectors have taken their case to Karlsruhe, Germany's seat of justice.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Deck

Freeland rules out further negotiations

Meeting Gabriel, Freeland ruled out further negotiations on CETA, beyond what Gabriel term "clarifications" on investor protection and employee rights and added that she would attend Monday's SPD conference in Wolfsburg.

Gabriel, who doubles as German Economy Minister, began his visit by meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and praising Canada's recently elected Liberal government for implementing changes to CETA's draft text that had made it more palatable for Germany and the EU.

Gabriel reiterated that a disputed resolution system now foreseen within CETA would have independent judges governed by a code of conduct and paid a regular salary, instead of "private investment courts" using arbitrators paid fees.

Referring to Trudeau's election last year, Gabriel said: "We found a progressive government, which had the same targets like we did. And it was very easy to come to a common understanding of what a fair agreement for the future should be."

'Look at what we have done in CETA'

ipj/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)