Saturday 18 January 2020

EU and Canada will sign free trade deal on Sunday

President Andre Antoine asks the members of the Walloon parliament to vote on the free trade deal (AP)
President Andre Antoine asks the members of the Walloon parliament to vote on the free trade deal (AP)

The European Union will sign a long-delayed trade pact with Canada on Sunday after a Belgian region finally endorsed the agreement.

Ambassadors from the EU nations meeting in Brussels late on Friday paved the way for the signature of the deal and for it to be provisionally applied until all 28 member states have legally ratified it.

European Council President Donald Tusk said an EU-Canada summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be held on Sunday to sign the accord.

"I am delighted to confirm that the EU is ready to sign the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada. It represents a milestone in the EU's trade policy and our commitment to it," said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose country now holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

The move came after parliamentarians in Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia voted by 58 votes to five, with no abstentions, to support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Regional Parliament President Andre Antoine said that "Europe must also pass by Wallonia".

Wallonia blocked the deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians for several weeks, deeply embarrassing the bloc.

The EU needed unanimity among all its 28 members and Belgium needed the backing of all its regions to approve the pact.

Mr Trudeau had been due to sign CETA with EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, but was forced to cancel his flight.

Work on the agreement was launched in 2009 and the text was actually finalised two years ago but sat in limbo awaiting endorsement.

Mr Antoine thanked the parliamentarians for working in "real democratic transparency".

He said: "This closes two years of work."

Politicians in Wallonia had argued that the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies.

Supporters said it would yield billions in added trade through customs and tariff cuts.


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