Representatives from the dairy farmers' association OPL, part of the farmers' organization Coordination Rurale (CR) were in front of the Assemblée Nationale – the French Parliament – asking their elected representatives to speak out against the agreement between the EU and Canada.
At the rally, European Milk Board (EMB) vice-president Sieta van Keimpema, said, "Talk to your farmers, talk to your citizens and as their elected representatives, live up to their expectations. They turned a deaf ear to our significant concerns at EU level and CETA was adopted in spite of all the criticism.
“You can, however, act at national level to prevent our farmers and thus our agricultural sector from being further affected by these harmful conditions. Please follow through and do not ratify the agreement in your country!"
As it turned out, the Assemblée Nationale stalled the vote until next week.
The Canadian government has already ratified the deal, but opposition continues in some corners in both the EU and Canada. The agreement needs to be ratified by all EU countries to come into effect.
According to the European Milk Board (EMB), CETA, which does away with all industrial tariffs and more than 90% of agricultural tariffs, is detrimental to both European and Canadian farmers, undermining the legitimate concerns that have been expressed by farmers, farm workers and consumers for years.
The French consumer representatives in Paris said CETA is contrary to important goals such as higher value creation, fair producer prices, and a healthy, safe and sustainable food supply.
According to CR General Secretary Véronique Le Floc’h, it is essential for the French Parliament to show due recognition for sustainable agriculture in the vote.
"The European Commission is weakening our agricultural model by concluding such trade agreements,” Le Floc’h said.
“Family-run farms, which are in line with consumer expectations, are a key element of this system. Our elected representatives must therefore set a precedent with the CETA vote and show that France is not willing to switch over to an ultra-liberal agricultural model."
Canada's market opening for cheese products from the EU has been captured in an additional tariff quota of 18,500 tonnes. According to Erwin Schöpges, EMB president, the big dairies and manufacturers of speciality cheeses will be the ones reaping major profits.
"EU dairy farmers, on the other hand, can expect no real gains from this agreement. Without an effective crisis instrument, they will continue to struggle with milk prices well below production costs," Schöpges said.
Calls for other EU Member States to refuse ratification
As the European association of dairy farmers, the EMB said it supports the demands of its French colleagues, and extends the ‘no’ call to other EU Member States with an upcoming national vote on CETA.
In Canada, there is still opposition to the deal, and on Monday, a cross-party group of Canadian politicians sent an open letter to the French National Assembly urging them to scrap the agreement.
The seven politicians include Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
The letter noted that the NDP, Green Party and Bloc Québécois all voted against the agreement.
The letter states, “CETA is based on a blueprint for trade that gives incredible rights to corporations—in the areas of protection, patents, public services, regulatory harmonization, and food and agriculture—without extending comparable rights to people, communities and the environment. The deal fails to create strong labour and environmental provisions that are binding.
“On both sides of the Atlantic there will be losses. Canada and Québec's farmers will see their supply management system threatened, while European farming standards will face pressure from big agribusiness. In Canada, our patent rules have already been changed, thereby raising costs of medicines for the population. In both parties, our abilities to support local economies and implement buy-local policies will be hampered by this deal.
“What’s worse, large corporations will be able to challenge our public policies through the investment dispute settlement (ICS) provisions. We were heartened when this first element did not make it into the new NAFTA agreement. We believe that it doesn’t belong in CETA either.”
The politicians said that they agree that trade is important, but adds, “However, we believe in a type of trading relationship very different from this one. We strive for a trading relationship that addresses the fundamental issues of inequality, human rights and climate change. We believe that you have the ability to make a difference which will not only help French citizens, who oppose this deal, but the rest of us as well.”
‘Undermining Canadian government’
However, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council of Canada and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters all hit back in a joint letter of their own, accusing Canadian opponents of the deal of undermining the Canadian government by trying to get foreign countries to kill a deal already agreed by the Canadian government.
The letter said, “At a time when Canada needs more trade certainty, our three organizations strongly oppose careless actions that risk our collective economic interests. Asking a foreign legislature to vote down the agreement not only undermines the will of the majority of Canadians but also weakens our ability to create more prosperity for all Canadians.
“CETA is critical to Canada’s economy. Thirty percent of our GDP is generated by exports. As we have learned from our negotiations with the current US administration, the need for Canadian businesses to tap into new markets is more important than ever before.”
In spite of the opposition, and the delay, the French National Assembly is expected to vote in favor of the deal, which must then go to the Senate for ratification.