EU to push through Canadian trade deal despite Belgium split
The free trade pact between the European Union and Canada is likely to be sealed next week despite opposition from the Belgian region of Wallonia, according to European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom as quoted by AFP.
“I am not sure we will be able to make a decision today, but hopefully we'll move forward and can make a decision very soon,” the commissioner said.
Last week, the French-speaking Belgian region voted against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Despite the full support of Belgium’s federal government, Brussels cannot back the agreement without the backing of all seven regional, linguistic and federal entities.
CETA needs to get unanimous support from all the EU’s 28 member states before it can be signed on October 27.
Malmstrom stressed that further delays would take a toll on the bloc's reputation as a reliable trade partner.
Earlier this week, Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he hoped the deal would be finally signed in spite of the attempts by regions to block it.
“I hope we will come through tomorrow. If not, at the end of the week during the summit of EU leaders,” the minister said on Monday.
CETA aims to boost trade between Canada and the European Union by eliminating tariffs on 98 percent of all goods and improving regulatory cooperation.
Opponents argue that the deal will lower EU's environmental, health and food safety standards. The agreement will also introduce a secret corporate court system, empowering big business to sue states for policies that threaten their profits.
If signed, the pact will become the biggest bilateral initiative after the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) sealed by Canada, Mexico and the US.