EU should stop parliaments blocking trade pacts: Finnish minister
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Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkanen speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, October 20, 2016. Picture taken October 20, 2016. Lehtikuva/ Mikko Stig/ via Reuters
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By Jussi Rosendahl
HELSINKI (Reuters) - The European Union must ensure future trade deals do not require the approval of all national and regional parliaments, Finland's trade minister said on Friday, warning that, if not, Europe will never be able to get a deal with the United States.
Kai Mykkanen said the EU had to avoid a repeat of what had happened to an EU trade deal with Canada, which until this week looked like it could be killed off due to objections from a region of Belgium.
The European Court of Justice is due to rule next year on whether such deals can be done purely at an EU-level or whether they must be approved unanimously by parliaments, a so-called "mixed" approach.
"The path of mixed deals has reached its end. The EU must be able to negotiate progressive trade pacts without getting stuck in a single member state," Mykkanen told Reuters in an interview.
"It is absolutely clear that regarding TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States) we can't even think of using the same method and throw the pact for the piranhas."
Initially, the deal with Canada was meant to be approved by the 28 national European governments as an EU-exclusive deal.
But pressure from some EU states, including Germany, led the European Commission to accept it as mixed - a victory for consumer, labor and environmental campaigners who say free trade deals can put hard-won safeguards at risk.
A mixed deal needs to be ratified by some 40 national and regional parliaments.
Mykkanen said trade pacts could be split into two parts, with one requiring approval from parliaments, and the other just needing support from a majority of EU governments.
"Issues under national jurisdiction would still need acceptance from all the member states, but at least those issues wouldn't hold the common trade policy hostage," he said.
"I call for leadership here. I think Europe has lacked vision on its common interest in these pacts and we have been stuck in some narrow questions which have no real meaning."
(Additional reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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