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French Senate rejects CETA free trade treaty with Canada



Today, the French Senate voted against the ratification of the CETA free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada, thanks to an alliance between the left and the right. In an extremely tense atmosphere, senators rejected by 211 votes to 44 the section of the bill related to this treaty, provisionally applied since 2017 but never presented to the upper house. They confirmed this rejection minutes later, in a final vote.

The rejection was described as “good news” by the president of the FĂ©dĂ©ration Nationale Bovine (FNB). “Patrick BĂ©nĂ©zit, second vice president of the majority farmers’ union FNSEA, rejoiced, saying that the senators “finally had the opportunity to make the right choice, that of not ratifying a treaty that authorizes foods that do not respect our production conditions.” It was mainly farmers who were pushing for the rejection of this free trade agreement that saw grain and meat production threatened by overseas imports

His opinion is not unanimously shared. Nicolas Ozanam, Delegate General of the French Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS), explained, “At a time of economic difficulty (for exports in the sector), putting ourselves in a delicate position after a good dynamic (since the treaty was implemented) seems totally surreal to us.” Of course, opposition to the pact is not equal across all sectors of the French economy.

A complex history of an unloved and never fully approved treaty

CETA was signed in late 2016; it was ratified by the European Parliament in late 2017 and has been applied provisionally ever since. However, not all national parliaments in the EU have yet to do so. The National Assembly, for its part, had narrowly approved it on July 23, 2019 by 266 votes to 213, causing a record abstention rate in Macronist ranks at the time. The Italian government approved CETA in 2017 and parliament in 2023.

In France, the treaty had never been presented to the upper house, despite numerous government promises. The Senate’s rejection is not in itself enough to denounce the agreement at the European level, but the problems for the government are far from over. It will now have to return to the Assembly for a vote that is far from certain in the outcome.

In the wake of the Senate vote, Communist deputies announced Thursday their intention to put the treaty on the agenda of the National Assembly on May 30, during their day in the House. The Senate vote “cannot remain a dead letter,” they said in a press release, indicating that their group wishes to include the text in its “parliamentary niche.”

“The confirmation by the National Assembly of the rejection of CETA will put an end to its implementation.”

If a national parliament, such as France’s, rejected the agreement, it would cease to have effect throughout the Union. A tremendous checkmate for the Commission and for Gentiloni, who had advocated its approval.

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