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Parliament set to ratify trade agreement with Canada

Committee chair Giorgos Lillikas

Parliament is next week set to vote on whether to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, and the indications are that it will pass.

The matter was discussed on Tuesday at the House foreign affairs committee, where trade unions, farmers and environmentalist groups reiterated their opposition to Cyprus ratifying the agreement. Employers organisations were in favour.

Main opposition Akel and nationalists Elam said outright they would be voting against the bill when it goes to the House plenum next Friday. But their combined votes would not be enough, as it appears the rest of the parties will be voting for CETA. The ruling party Disy supports the deal, as do junior opposition Diko.

In parliament, critics of CETA said it would lead to a further deregulation of labour relations. Proponents meantime argued the deal will open up the Canadian market to Cyprus and create jobs.

In comments later, committee chair Giorgos Lillikas said the deal would broaden the capacity for trade in goods and services between Cyprus and Canada, improving the trade surplus.

At the same time, he criticised the government for not having deliberated with local stakeholders prior to Cyprus co-signing the deal as an EU member state in October 2016.

Discussion of the pros and cons of CETA should have preceded the signing, Lillikas said.

All 27 EU members need to ratify the trade agreement; so far only 14 have done so.

Disy MP Nicos Tornaritis said Cyprus, as a full member of the bloc, cannot “pick and choose.” He noted that after Brexit, Cyprus is the sole EU member whose legal system is similar to Canada’s, adding that Cyprus stands to gain a great deal from CETA.

For his part, Giorgos Loucaides of Akel warned that CETA would be a boon to multinational corporations, but would hurt the working classes and farmers.

Likewise Elam MP Christos Christou noted that the deal allows international investors to sue nation-states if they deem that the latter’s policies damage their interests.

“This point is unacceptable to us,” Christou said, advocating that Cyprus use protective tariffs on its products.

The European Commission bills CETA as beneficial to Cyprus. Under the deal, customs tariffs for Cypriot exporters and importers would be scrapped, and the Canadian services market opened up to Cypriot firms.

In other business on Tuesday, the House foreign affairs committee said parties are poised to ratify the interstate agreement between Cyprus, Greece and Israel relating to the EastMed natural gas pipeline.

The ratifying vote will be put to the House plenum this week or the next.

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