Canada and EU reach finishing line over trade deal

Posted on October 29, 2016

Canada and the EU will sign a long-awaited trade agreement on Sunday after overcoming delays due to objections in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, according to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. 

Mr Trudeau was due to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU on Friday but was forced to cancel his original visit to Brussels because of negotiations to resolve the impasse dragging on. 

But after the Walloon and other regional parliaments in Belgium on Friday approved a compromise, Mr Trudeau said he had agreed to travel to Europe at the weekend to sign the deal, which has been about seven years in the making. 

“I’ve just spoken with [European Council president Donald] Tusk — the Canada-EU Summit will be Sunday. Great news and I’m looking forward to being there,” he tweeted on Friday. 

Mr Tusk said: “Mission accomplished! Just agreed with [Mr Trudeau] to hold EU-Canada Summit this Sunday.” 

The CETA and its difficulties in Europe have raised new questions about the EU’s capacity to negotiate trade deals. Because of a decision made by the European Commission to appease critics, the deal had been subject to approval by 38 national and regional parliaments in the 28-member EU. 

The negotiations have also highlighted another potential trade fight looming, with Mr Trudeau’s government yet to decide how and when to bring up for ratification the much bigger Trans-Pacific Partnership with the US, Japan and nine other Pacific economies. 

In the US the TPP, which was signed earlier this year, is facing an uncertain path with the Obama administration hoping to have it ratified by Congress after the November 8 election despite opposition from both major presidential candidates. 

Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada © Getty

Mr Trudeau’s government, which has signed the TPP though it was negotiated by the previous administration, has been conducting a listening tour to try to determine public support in Canada for the deal, which covers some 40 per cent of the global economy. 

But the debacle with CETA and Wallonia has illustrated how the opposition of even a small portion of the population can derail a trade agreement, particularly in today’s febrile public mood towards globalisation. 

Speaking on Friday, Wallonia’s Socialist premier, Paul Magnette, said Belgian negotiations had led to a deal that offered greater guarantees for farmers, and regarding a special arbitration system to protect foreign investors that has been the focus of much of the ire of critics. 

“The amended and corrected CETA is more than just the old CETA. It offers more guarantees and it is what I will defend,” Mr Magnette said. 

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