BRUSSELS, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- The EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will pass a milestone this week, as it is expected to be approved by the European Parliament Wednesday, the last step before the deal can be applied provisionally from as early as April 2017.
If approved by the Parliament, in its final step, CETA will also need to be ratified by EU member states' national and regional parliaments.
The extensive trade deal would unlock commerce between the European Union and Canada by removing tariffs on most goods and services, while also opening up Canada's public procurement market.
For some parties, this would be a huge boon for international trade, with the EU importing 28.3 billion euros (30 billion U.S. dollars) in goods from Canada in 2015, and exporting goods worth 35.2 billion euros. These figures are projected to jump by more than 20 percent should CETA be fully implemented.
While the European Parliament is expected to give its consent to the deal signed by the EU and Canada at the end of October, the debate before the vote is likely to raise recurring doubts about CETA that may persist after its implementation.
One major concern is that CETA could give big corporations unfair advantages in investment disputes, relying on an independent international tribunal to arbitrate, rather than national court systems. Critics argue that the move is undemocratic, allowing corporations to bypass national courts to sue in favor of their interests, with citizens given little power to intervene.
Proponents of the deal have argued that a new, revised approach to arbitration is an improvement on ad-hoc approaches used previously, with the permanent tribunal having no jurisdiction on matters of EU or national law, and only deciding on matters related to the agreement.
Despite these revisions, however, several European political groups called for CETA to be passed to the European Court of Justice to be reviewed prior to the parliamentary vote, only to have that suggestion rejected during November's plenary.
Anne-Marie Mineur, shadow rapporteur on CETA for the European United Left/Nordic Green Left political group (GUE/NGL), deplored "The lack of democratic involvement and minimal transparency," of the agreement in a press release, lamenting that it "set an alarming precedent for trade agreements to come."
The European Greens have likewise come out in opposition to the deal, claiming "Private courts for investors would undermine our democracies, and the agreement poses serious threats to public services, workers' rights and the environment." The Greens have announced that they will take part in an anti-CETA demonstration outside the Parliament on Wednesday, calling for the trade agreement to be rejected.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to make the case for CETA on Thursday, in an address to the European Parliament on the day after the vote. He is expected to promote Canada's role as a leader on progressive trade and investment, with highlights on how CETA will create jobs, bolster shared prosperity, and help grow the middle class.
However, local and regional movements to oppose CETA and similar trade deals have led to 1,500 local authorities having passed motions declaring "TTIP/CETA/TiSA-free zones."
Central concerns about the deregulation of trade in goods and services had already held up the signing of the deal when the left-leaning Wallonia region of Belgium opposed CETA up until October. Even though the French-speaking socialists of Belgian eventually gave their consent to agreement, the underlying distrust of international trade agreements will likely persist.
"The resistance to this agreement will not stop here," warned Mineur, making references to the powers of the will of the people in the era of populism and the rise of Donald Trump in the United States.
CETA negotiations were first launched in May 2009 and concluded in September 2014.