Canada-EU trade pact can't be renegotiated: EU official
Changes cannot be made to a trade deal between the European Union and Canada without killing it off completely, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht warned to a German newspaper on Thursday.
"If we re-open negotiations on CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), the deal will be dead," De Gucht told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Canadian and European leaders are scheduled to formally conclude negotiations on the deal -- seen as a template for a similar pact between the EU and the United States -- in Ottawa on Friday.
The text of the deal, some 1,500 pages long, will be published on Friday and then the long ratification process will begin.
But Germany in particular is pressing for a contentious arbitration mechanism to be excluded from both the CETA and the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German parliament in a debate on Thursday that he was convinced the new provision -- known as the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) -- was "superfluous" and current legislation already sufficient.
The ISDS provision will allow private investors to sue governments if they felt local laws threatened their investments.
In Uruguay, for example, cigarette maker Philip Morris has sued the government for ordering that the health warnings be larger on cigarette packets.
"The chapter regarding investment protection is not approvable," Gabriel said.
"We've achieved a lot. It's a good deal and it would be wrong to block it. But we must try to negotiate some adjustments. The last word hasn't been spoken yet," Gabriel said.
Earlier this week, in a letter to the Bundestag, Gabriel expressed hope that the outstanding points could be clarified in the coming weeks and months.
In the interview with FAZ, EU commissioner De Gucht dismissed criticism about ISDS.
"That's a populistic, emotional debate and one which has been fanned by the Internet," he said.
"The investment protection in CETA is the most modern and most transparent ever," he said, insisting that there it contained provisions to prevent the abuses that the mechanism's critics were concerned about.
© 2014 AFP