CETA: Not all that glitters is gold

Matthew Read


With the EU Parliament’s final vote on CETA (the EU-Canada trade deal) fast approaching, pro-CETA groups are flooding their media streams with advertisements and appeals. Despite the millions of concerned citizens and numerous warnings from experts across Europe; Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and many Social Democrats are backing this deal. While most Social Democrats have chosen to remain silent about the issue, hoping no one will notice, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are taking a pro-active approach to promote what they call “a gold standard trade deal”. But what is behind their arguments?

In early December of 2016, the EU Parliament’s Employment Committee determined that CETA would endanger 90 million jobs in small businesses. To put that figure into perspective, Germany, the country with the highest population in the EU, has 81 million residents. The Employment Committee explains that these jobs would be endangered because small European businesses (defined as fewer than 250 employees) could not withstand the “full force of competition from large North American transnational corporations”. The Committee also states that 93% of these small businesses have fewer than 10 employees.

What has the response from European Conservatives been? A €16,000 advertisement claiming that “CETA is a golden opportunity” with a picture of pancakes and olive oil basking in golden sunshine published in the influential media outlet Politico. Another advertisement from their campaign claims that our lives will be much “sweeter” with CETA because it will reduce tariffs on “candied fruit and almonds”.

When faced with such a serious issue as unemployment, one would think the Conservatives would try to reasonably address concerns, but instead they attempt weak and childish bribes through sweet treats and wines. (Below this article you can see a slideshow with more ads from the European People’s Party’s campaign)

When confronted with the Employment Committee’s sobering report on CETA, most pro-CETA officials ignore it, but some respond by calling the report “fake news” or simply shifting the blame for unemployment to robots.

In an only slightly more substantive approach, senior Conservative official and CETA rapporteur Artis Pabriks claims that CETA will “boost trade by 20%”. If we look at the source of this figure, we find that it comes from a 2008 study by the EU Commission and the Government of Canada. However, Mr. Pabriks fails to tell us that this study was actually conducted before CETA’s negotiations even began and it therefore has no references to this particular trade deal.

The study also claims that the EU’s GDP would increase 0.08% with CETA. According to Ronan O’Brien, an independent researcher, this increase in GDP equates to 44 cent per week for every EU citizen and, in his own words, “that is enough for each person to have one cup of coffee every 2 months.”

So, with outdated studies, empty advertisements and 90 million jobs at risk, the questions is: why are the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and far too many Social Democrats still supporting CETA?


With less than two weeks left before the EU Parliament’s CETA vote, we must act. If you – or someone you know – work in a small business, this deal puts your job at risk. The Parliament’s own Employment Committee stated this. Call your representative and tell him/her what you think about CETA. All contact info can be found on the CETA Check (Click on the info icon “i” to find phone numbers)