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Belgium reaches agreement on CETA

October 27, 2016

The Belgian government and its regions have reached an agreement over the CETA trade pact between the EU and Canada. Signing the deal had previously been called off after a Belgian region refused to endorse the deal.

Justin Trudeau Donald Tusk
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) and European Council President Donald Tusk are both pro-CETAImage: picture alliance/Empics/The Canadian Press/A. Wyld

Canada cancels CETA summit with EU

Belgium resolved an internal deadlock over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada on Thursday, Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters in Brussels.

The EU cancelled Thursday's planned summit with Canada, after Belgium failed to reach an agreement Wednesday night in time for it to be signed by both sides. 

"Given that not all EU member states are ready to sign the CETA, the EU-Canada summit will not start today as planned," an EU source told the DPA news agency on condition of anonymity.

All 28 members of the EU must accept the deal. Although Belgium's federal government agrees to it, certain regions of Belgium do not - and the country requires their approval. As it stands, only the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders has given the green light to CETA.

Canada cancels CETA summit with EU

Lawmakers in Wallonia say they are concerned the agreement could hurt local farming. It is backed by labor and green groups that worry the trade deal could undercut national laws that protect the environment and worker rights.

Canadian delegation to stay home

Late on Wednesday, Canada said its delegation would not be traveling to Brussels to sign the agreement as planned on Thursday.

"Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement when Europe is ready," Alex Lawrence, the spokesperson for Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, told German news agency DPA.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council and host of the planned EU-Canada summit, has warned the EU's reputation would suffer if the deal falls through, saying Canada is "the most European country outside Europe and a close friend and ally."

The deal would link the EU economy with Canada's, a deal between two of the largest economies in the world. Proponents of CETA say this will boost growth and job creation in Canada and Europe. Critics argue that its terms unfairly advantage international investors and could corrode labor, consumer and environmental standards. They have also objected by saying large companies could have outside influence over the governments of Canada and Europe.

CETA standstill: Interview with Stefan Rizor

rs,jar kbd/gsw, kl (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)