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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Libre-échange. Convergences à gauche contre le Ceta


Free Trade. The Left unite against CETA

Translated Sunday 19 February 2017, by Sonia Govindankutty

The French MEPs are preparing to vote against the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. They are calling for an alternative trade deal.

Yesterday at noon, a crowd assembled in the small basement of the cafe right opposite the Gare de l’Est in Paris. The facilitators of the collective Stop Tafta-Ceta had brought together several MEPs belonging to three leftist parliamentary groups (Marie-Christine Vergiat, Patrick Le Hyaric and Jean-Luc Mélenchon from the European United Left, Karima Delli, Michèle Rivasi and Yannick Jadot from the Greens, Isabelle Thomas and Emmanuel Maurel for the Socialists and the Democrats), about ten minutes before their departure by train to attend the Strasbourg session. Clearly, most of the journalists present are attempting to get word from someone or other on the presidential campaign and on calls for the Left to come together. "I am very happy to be here with Yannick Jadot, who, like us, is fighting against Ceta and has given some very good speeches on the subject to the European Parliament," Jean-Luc Mélenchon vents at the very outset. "It is an important issue on which to join forces..."

"Ceta is the end of the world and I hope it will never be implemented"

Generally speaking, while the plenary vote on the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada will take place on Wednesday morning, all would indeed seamlessly converge. "This transatlantic treaty would serve the interests of multinationals who would undermine all social norms," criticizes Marie-Christine Vergiat. Michèle Rivasi is sarcastic about "those who are always put across as nice Canadians." "These nice Canadians fought in the World Trade Organization (WTO) to undo the regulations barring the use of pesticides or asbestos," she recalls. Member of the European Parliament’s Employment Committee – "the only one to have voted against the Ceta", she mentions, –, Karima Delli points to the disastrous effects on employment of the proposed agreement put up for approval by the MEPs: " According to a report brought out by the Committee, Ceta will eliminate 300 000 jobs in Europe, 45 000 of which in France."

According to Yannick Jadot, "forced free trade", of which Ceta is an incarnation, "opens the way open for extreme right’s gains across Europe." "We have to protect social rights, human rights and the environment," he argues. "Ceta is the end of the world and I hope it never gets implemented," adds Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Free trade has lived on; none can believe that the more we are open, the better off we are. It completely goes against the grain...I am an advocate of sustainable protectionism, both environmental and social." Isabelle Thomas asks to "write a fresh chapter in international trade," to counteract free trade. Her friend Emmanuel Maurel vows: "We are initiating a strong fight against all these treaties. Ceta is the not the new treaty of a new world; it is the last treaty of an old world that is coming to an end."

The fight will not end after the possible approval of Ceta by the European Parliament, thanks to the support of large numbers of social democrats who are still under the spell of the siren song of the neoliberals. The treaty, certain provisions of which may be provisionally applied, must be passed by the Parliaments of the member countries. "We shall fight to the end in the European Parliament to convince our colleagues," promises Patrick Le Hyaric. "But if Ceta receives the majority vote at Strasbourg, we shall take new steps to make heard the voices of the European and French people."

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