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The EU-Canada free trade deal has cleared a key hurdle after the European Parliament voted to approve the contentious pact that came close to collapse after running into a storm of resistance in a regional parliament in Belgium.

The deal, known as Ceta, will provisionally enter into force pending a series of parliamentary votes in each of the bloc’s 28 member states.

Anti-globalisation groups had mounted a strident campaign against the agreement, raising concern that its collapse could spell of the end of European trade policy.

The MEP vote split came in at 408 ‘yes’s', 254 ‘no’s’ and 33 abstentions.

Cecelia Malmstrom, EU trade commissioner, said at the conclusion of a long debate in Strasbourg this morning that Canada was a close ally of Europe.

“Calling a trade agreement with Canada a coup d’etat is frankly going too far,” she said.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, welcomed the vote, saying the terms of the deal had “been subject to an in-depth parliamentary scrutiny which reflects the increased interest of citizens in trade policy”.

He added:

I now call on all Member States to conduct an inclusive and thorough discussion at national level with the relevant stakeholders in the context of the national ratification process of the agreement.

Canada’s ambassador to the EU, Marie-Anne Coninsx, described the MEPs approval as a “historic moment“.

The EU says the agreement will save the continent’s businesses over €500m a year in tariffs on goods exported to Canada.

Image via AP

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