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French lawmakers approve EU-Canada trade deal

The CETA trade agreement between Canada and the EU has boosted volumes at the Port of Montreal. Photo: Montreal Port Authority

France’s parliament voted to ratify a free-trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, overcoming strong opposition on fears it could hurt farmers.

A divided National Assembly voted 266 to 213 on July 23 to back the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which eliminates tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods. The vote makes France the largest EU state to approve CETA, which has provisionally been in place since 2017. 

Opposition leaders came out strongly against CETA despite early benefits to France. French merchandise exports to Canada surged by 15.7 percent during the first full year CETA was in force, while Canadian exports to France dropped by 5.8 percent, data from Global Affairs Canada shows

The biggest gains for French exports came from aerospace (32.5 percent), machinery (15.1 percent) and beverages (12.4 percent).

CETA critics in France argued that the agreement could bring unfair competition to farmers from imported products adhering to lower environmental and food safety standards. 

Ahead of the vote, French President Emmanuel Macron, said, “If we decide to reject everything in principle, we isolate ourselves.” 

The approval makes France the 14th, and largest, EU country to adopt CETA. Each EU member state must approve the agreement. 

To date, the United Kingdom had been the largest EU state to adopt CETA. It did so after it voted to leave the European Union. 

“It is encouraging to see one of the EU’s biggest economies supporting this trade deal,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce tweeted

France’s ratification could help CETA in other EU states. Italy, in particular, has been resistant to the deal, which was signed in 2016.

CETA has boosted exports in the EU and Canada. But so far, the EU has reaped the larger benefits in exports.

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Nate Tabak

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist and producer who covers cybersecurity and cross-border trucking and logistics for FreightWaves. He spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at [email protected].