As farmers continue to demonstrate, the French Senate voted to reject ratification of the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA). Communist senators, who had been attempting to destroy the trade agreement for years, had placed the vote on the schedule. Les Républicains senators on the right likewise voted against the accord.

French Senate’s decision

Over a full day of parliamentary discussion, 243 senators voted to abolish CETA and only 26 to save it, sending a strong message to President Emmanuel Macron. The French communist senator who spearheaded the voting proposal, Cécile Cukierman, told POLITICO prior to the election that “France’s gastronomic reputation makes us export our wines and cheeses all over the world, not because of CETA.” The agreement has been in effect provisionally since 2017, despite the fact that ten EU nations have not yet approved it. The European Commission pushed EU nations to approve it once more last month. Macron and his centrist parliamentary partners narrowly won approval of the agreement in the lower house of the National Assembly in 2019. However, confirmation requires support from the Senate upper chamber, where they are clearly in the minority. Senators voted 211 times against and 44 times in favor of the pact, followed by a second vote that formally rejected it amid scenes of animosity rarely seen in the upper chamber.

Reasons for rejection

CETA has been opposed for years by the political opposition in France and farmer lobbies, who see it as a threat to French farmers. However, according to data from the French foreign ministry, French exports to Canada climbed by 33 percent between 2017 and 2023, including wine (+24 percent) and cheese (+60 percent). “This is a terrible day for our business, our farmers, our exporters, and our economy,” the nation’s trade minister, Franck Riester, said senators following the decision. As a direct result, the National Assembly, France’s lower house, will once more have a vote on the agreement

The Assembly gave it approval back in 2019, but since then, opponents of free trade have cost Macron’s party seats, casting doubt on the result of a runoff election. The trade portion of the agreement will not change even after the vote because it is solely the responsibility of the European Commission. The chapter on promoting investments between the EU and Canada, which will not go into force until it is approved by the parliaments of all EU member states, was supported by senators in the meanwhile.

Impact on EU-Canada relations

Given that Macron is adamantly opposed to a proposed trade pact between the EU and the Mercosur group of South America, Paris has long questioned Brussels‘ efforts to reach new trade accords. However, at the same time, his administration has stood up for the CETA accord and other trade agreements, like the one with New Zealand, that it believes are good for the French economy and the environment. Riester and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal will travel to Ottawa, maybe with the intention of assuring Canada following the referendum. Although there were some predictions that the opponents of the pact wouldn’t have enough time for the confirmation vote, they succeeded in fitting it in by expediting the discussion. The negative vote does not by itself void the deal, although being a blow to the administration, which supports the pact. Macron does not need to formally notify the EU, as per EU regulations, for the rejection to take effect.

International trade dynamics

Despite the fact that opponents admit there isn’t a meat invasion into Europe, Canada currently has other clients that come first, namely China. On the other hand, they worry that Canadian manufacturers may eventually try to break into the European market. Minister Riester attempted to reassure lawmakers that “the (Canadian) industry is a long way from being able to structure itself to meet European health requirements. He was adamant that Canadians “cannot and will not be able to export their hormone-treated beef. The National Assembly, which has the last word, is now in charge of the remainder. A political organization may suggest a fresh discussion and vote in the National Assembly, and there is a chance that the chamber would vote it down if the government does not propose a new vote, which is quite likely to happen.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Manon Aubry, who opposed the accord and led the far-left France Insoumise ticket for the European elections, was also ecstatic. She declared on X that “we have to go all the way and suspend the treaty” and that she would be requesting a discussion on CETA during the upcoming European Parliament plenary session.