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French Senate rejects EU-Canada free-trade agreement

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France’s Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly voted against a free-trade agreement between the EU and Canada thanks to an unusual alliance in the upper house between left and right wing opponents of French President Emmanuel Macron. 

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The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) has been in force provisionally since 2017, but requires ratification in all European Union member countries to take full effect.

Macron and his centrist parliamentary allies managed to get the deal approved in the National Assembly lower house in 2019 by a slim margin, but backing by the Senate upper house – where they are in a clear minority – is needed for ratification.

After scenes of tension rarely seen in the upper house, senators voted 211 against and 44 for the treaty and then confirmed the rejection with a second vote.

Read more‘Unfair competition’: French farmers up in arms over EU free-trade agreements

There had been some expectations that opponents of the treaty would run out of time for the confirmation vote but they managed to squeeze it in by racing through the debate.

Although a setback for the government, which backs the treaty, the no-vote does not in itself nullify the agreement.

Under EU rules, the rejection is only effective if the government officially notifies the EU, which Macron is not expected to do.

The government has not said how it will handle the situation, but one option is to take the treaty back to the National Assembly for a fresh debate and vote.

Seventeen of the EU’s members have ratified the deal, with the process still ongoing in 10 countries.

France is the second country to have rejected ratification.

The first, Cyprus, has not notified the EU Commission of its no-vote and continues to apply the treaty pending a new vote.

(AFP) 

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