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EU, Canada express confidence on CETA trade deal

EU leader Donald Tusk and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau have declared their determination to see the CETA deal through in the face of Belgian opposition. Belgium's PM has said he can not sign off on the deal as it stands.

European Union and Canadian leaders downplayed the notion that the CETA trade agreement was dead in the water on Monday. After opposition from the Wallonia region of Belgium seemed poised to kill the deal, EU President Donald Tusk insisted it could still go through as planned.

"Together with PM Justin Trudeau, we think Thursday's summit still possible. We encourage all parties to find a solution. There's yet time," Tusk wrote on Twitter after a telephone call with the Canadian prime minister.

Tusk did not clarify if more talks would have to take place after Belgium became the only country in the 28-member bloc that failed to get the requisite approval to go forward with the agreement that has been in the works for years.

Earlier on Monday, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said "we are not in a position to sign CETA," in the face of resistance from the Wallonia regional administration and the Belgian government. Belgium needs approval from all its sub-federal administrative divisions before it can agree to the deal.

Deal benefits corporations, hurts farmers opponents claim

Wallonia has been the most vocal part of Europe-wide opposition that claimed the deal would hurt European farmers and the environment while promoting the interests of global corporations at the expense of national sovereignty. Leader of Wallonia Paul Magnette has also said that his government was not given enough time to debate the matter before being pressed to give its assent.

Belgien Paul Magnette Wallonie Ministerpräsidnet CETA Ablehnung (Getty Images/AFP/E. Dunand)

Paul Magnette, Minister President of Wallonia

"The prime minister told us that ... Tusk wanted a yes or no answer today; it is obvious that given the current circumstances we cannot give a yes today," Magnette said on Monday, but added that Wallonia was still willing to negotiate.

Some have accused Magnette of using the situation to gain leverage in domestic politics as his Socialist government has been at odds with Michel's center-right coalition at the federal level.

Tusk has voiced concern that should the deal not go through, it would bring the reputation of Europe as a trading partner into question.

Tusk's optimism on Monday was mirrored by Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor and economy minister. "We are of course working to bring about a successful conclusion to CETA," his spokeswoman said.

es/jm (AFP, dpa)

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