Controversial CETA deal signed as protesters storm European Council in Brussels

The European Union and Canada signed a long-delayed free trade deal, which has triggered massive protests over concerns that it will harm European local businesses and agriculture and create a “dictatorship of corporations.”

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement’s (CETA) stated goal is to create new jobs and promote economic growth.

During the signing, protesters wearing all-white boiler suits attempted to break through police barricades and the security fence at the European Council building in Brussels. The demonstration then escalated into violent clashes with Council security guards.

Protesters threw red paint at the officers who had to pin down those who managed to vault over the barriers surrounding the building. A number of people were detained before they managed to reach the European Council.

Security guards used pepper spray and batons in an attempt to disperse the crowd. An armed squad could soon be seen at the site.

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Union, said he welcomed the free trade agreement, speaking at a press conference that came after the deal was officially signed.

The treaty was signed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the heads of EU institutions. The pact is to come into full force in early 2017, when most import duties are to be lifted.

The path to the agreement was rather thorny, with massive protests breaking out in a number of European countries, including France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and others.

The CETA deal is believed to pave way for a larger EU deal with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP), which has long been objected to by labor unions and environmental activists.

CETA supporters claim the treaty will boost Canadian-EU trade by 20 percent, with Canada’s economy increasing its performance by $9 billion, and the bloc by $13 billion.

At the same time, Canada is hoping to reduce the degree it depends on the export market of its neighbor, the US.

Critics of both CETA and TTIP focus their attention on the mechanism designed to protect foreign companies’ investments, pointing out its flaws. Multinational companies are likely to abuse the deals’ provision for arbitration panels to rule on disputes, and start dictating public policy, including environmental standards.

The EU and Canada, however, shrugged off the objections, saying that the investment protection system stipulates the governments’ right to regulate, turn to independent judges, and be more transparent.

30 October 2016 | 1:29 pm

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