Wednesday 26 July 2017

Belgian deal rescues Europe's trade pact with Canada

Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel addresses a statement at the end of a meeting on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel addresses a statement at the end of a meeting on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

Ian Wishart

Belgium has reached a deal with the country's regional parliaments to approve a trade agreement between the European Union and Canada - ending the deadlock that has delayed the accord's signature.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said the EU-Canada deal can be approved by the nation's regions "by tomorrow at midnight".

The agreement is an "important step for EU and Canada", Mr Michel said yesterday.

The approval means the EU and Canada can now move ahead with one of the world's most ambitious and far-reaching trade pacts.

Belgium's federal government had been unable to persuade the Walloon regional parliament to sign up to the proposed pact.

The EU and Canada cancelled a summit planned for yesterday at which the two sides would have signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which has taken seven years to negotiate. "I am glad for good news," EU President Donald Tusk said. "Only once all procedures are finalised for EU signing CETA will I contact Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau."

In holding up the deal, Wallonia, which accounts for less than 1pc of the EU's population, cited concerns about the impact on employment and consumer standards.

Wallonia's stance had tied the hands of the Belgian federal government, which had been in favour of the agreement but needed the endorsement of regional authorities.

The other 27 EU nations support the deal, the bloc's first commercial accord with a fellow member of the Group of Seven industrialised countries.

Justin Trudeau has warned that the EU needed to prove it was still viable by passing CETA. Failure would prompt questions about "how relevant the European Union continues to be as a political entity", he said this month. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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