STRASBOURG, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- The European Parliament (EP), meeting Wednesday for its plenary in Strasbourg, has voted its approval on the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which aims to increase trade and investment flows between the two parties.
Approved by 408 votes in favor to 254 against, with 33 abstentions, the extensive trade deal would unlock commerce between the European Union (EU) and Canada by removing tariffs on most goods and services, while also opening up Canada's public procurement market.
"By adopting CETA, we chose openness and growth and high standards over protectionism and stagnation," declared the European Parliament's CETA rapporteur Artis Pabriks, who's also a member of the EP for Latvia, after Wednesday's vote.
"Canada is a country with whom we share common values and an ally we can rely on. Together we can build bridges, instead of a wall, for the prosperity of our citizens. CETA will be a lighthouse for future trade deals all over the world," said Pabriks.
EU suppliers of services from sea shipping through telecoms and engineering will have access to the Canadian market. CETA also provides a framework for allowing professional qualifications to be recognized, so that legal, accounting, architectural and other services can be supplied across markets.
Certain exceptions and protections have been put in place, including the recognition of over 140 European geographical indications for food and drinks sold on the Canadian market, such as Feta cheese from Greece and Parma ham from Italy. Tariff barriers will also remain in place in the fields of public services, audiovisual and transport services, and a few agricultural products, such as dairy, poultry and eggs.
Members of European Parliament (MEPs) also approved the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) as a complement to CETA. The deal establishes bilateral cooperation on an array of non-trade issues, including foreign and security policy, counter-terrorism, fighting organized crime, sustainable development, research and culture. The EU-Canada SPA was passed by 506 votes to 142 against, with 43 abstentions.
CETA negotiations were first launched in May 2009 and concluded in September 2014. The agreement could be applied as early as April 2017.