A narrow majority in the House of Representatives on Tuesday agreed to CETA, the trade agreement between the European Union and Canada. VVD, CDA, D66, ChristenUnie and Groep-Van Haga agreed. The rest of the opposition was opposed, including the PvdA - which in the previous cabinet supplied the minister who negotiated the treaty.
With the withdrawal of the PvdA it will be difficult to guide the treaty through the senate.
The coalition parties are six seats short in the senate for a majority. The route along the Groep-Otten, 50PLUS and SGP route cannot be taken for granted: SGP and 50PLUS voted against in the Lower House and Groep-Otten is not yet convinced.
Foreign Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag pulled a majority in the debate last week.
For a long time it seemed that CETA would not reach the Senate, because coalition partner ChristenUnie was opposed to the trade agreement. In 2016, the party voted against CETA. The party took a stand in the debate after the minister met a number of demands from the ChristenUnie.
The treaty does not change a letter, but CU MP Joël Voordewind was assured that Kaag would endeavor to investigate whether additional checks on meat imports are possible.
Voordewind acknowledged last week that coalition interests were at stake. "There has been no talk about blowing up the cabinet, but we have been urgently appealed."
Criticism of food safety, animal welfare and ICS
It is now up to Minister Kaag to get a majority behind CETA in the senate. The biggest criticism of the treaty focuses on the position of farmers, food safety and the ICS.
According to the opposition parties, the treaty would penalize Dutch farmers because lower standards of food safety and animal welfare would apply in Canada.
There is also criticism of the ICS, the court of arbitration where companies can sue governments if they find that their investments are being jeopardized by government action. According to critics, that would violate the sovereignty of the Netherlands.
Kaag: Look at the content
Minister Kaag said earlier that he can properly imagine the concerns, but at the same time sees a lot of "ghost stories" circulating. "For an internationally oriented country like the Netherlands, we must look at the content of the treaty."
For example, it ensures that the ICS will not constitute a violation of the freedom of action of the government and parliament. The Netherlands is already a party to around eighty investment treaties and so far no company has made a formal claim against the Netherlands.
The ICS did not need Van Kaag either, because it sees Canada as a fully fledged constitutional state. The arbitration court is rather a Canadian wish. That country wants security for companies that want to do business in EU countries where the rule of law is under pressure, such as Poland and Hungary.
China, the US and the changed global economy
With regard to animal welfare and food safety, Kaag says there are sufficient guarantees: only 36 livestock farms with a certificate can export to the Netherlands. Hormone meat was not allowed on the EU market and even after CETA, hormone meat will not find its way to Dutch supermarkets.
Kaag emphasized that there is a lot at stake for the Netherlands and the EU. She warns of China's state capitalism and the protectionism of US President Donald Trump.
In the changing global economy, the EU should promote international trade. "If you can no longer make an agreement with a country like Canada, you will weaken yourself."