Artis Pabriks 

Ceta passed a crucial hurdle on 15 February when MEPs voted to back the landmark EU-Canada trade deal. The agreement removing more than 99% of tariffs can provisionally enter into force as early as April. Speaking following the vote, Artis Pabriks, Parliament's lead MEP on Ceta, said: “Europe cannot survive without free and fair trade and high-quality interaction with other global players.” He also described Ceta as “the gold standard for future trade deals”.

Following years of work, what does the passing of Ceta in Parliament mean to you personally?

 

Actually it means a lot. I’ve always believed in the idea of Europe and I really feel that this continent can only flourish if we work together. Passing Ceta means that we are collectively sticking with common sense instead of giving in to populism. Ceta gives me hope that the European Union and the peoples and nations of Europe can overcome these difficult times. Because make no mistake, we are in decline. And once we are in decline, we should stop digging and think instead about how we can get out of this trough together.


Many Europeans still have misgivings about Ceta. What can you say to allay their concerns?

 

Firstly, I would like that Europeans take hard facts into account instead of alternative facts. While there is opposition, as well as rising populism, this trade deal is important for Europe geopolitically as well as economically. The world is increasingly turning protectionist and attempting to build walls, but Europe cannot survive without free and fair trade and high-quality interaction with other global players. This is what Ceta provides us with and it is, in my view, the gold standard for future trade deals.


We've heard about the benefits to industry and professionals, but what's in it for the average worker?

 

Well average workers are not Martians, they are living on earth. And anything good that happens to our societies at large also positively affects every citizen. Big corporations do not need deals like Ceta: they can enter markets with their big money and smart lawyers. Smaller entrepreneurs cannot do this, so Ceta is the way for them to get their products into the Canadian market.


A trade deal like Ceta will simply boost our wealth and that will enable national governments to better assist those of their citizens who are in need. Also, remember that 14% of employment in the EU is down to international trade. If we wish to create walls, be protectionist and blow up trade deals like Ceta, forget about your job.


Yet, are we not entering an age where international trade agreements are falling out of favour?

 

Right now, trade deals have become a scapegoat. People no longer want to think according to facts, instead they have the possibility on social media to choose their version of the truth. We are truly seeing a decline in the possibility to argue with real facts.


Regarding the trade deal between the EU and the United States, I would say it is on ice as we do not know yet what Trump’s reaction will be to TTIP. However, he has not up until now said anything negative about the trade deal with Europe.


The ratification process for Ceta does not end at the European Parliament. What are the next steps?

 

Following Parliament’s vote, Ceta will enter into force provisionally, but it must still be passed in national parliaments. Now though that MEPs have voted for Ceta, Europeans will see its benefits and national parliaments will be able to discuss the deal with the public and explain what Ceta really entails. And in the longer term, I believe that national parliaments will base their votes on hard facts and not on fearful hypotheses about the collapse of the world because of international trade.


Artis Pabriks is a Latvian member of the EPP group.

EU-Canada trade relations 
  • Canada ranked 12th among the EU’s trading partners in 2015 
  • The EU was Canada’s second most important trading partner after the US in 2015 
  • €28.3 billion of EU imports vs €35.2 billion of exports 
  • Canada was the 4th most important investment destination for EU companies (€274.7 billion)