EU Council decides to sign CETA trade agreement with Canada

Demonstrators protest against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA, a planned EU-Canada free trade agreement, outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 27, 2016. © Yves Herman
The Council of the EU has announced its decision to sign the free trade agreement with Canada (CETA), as well as to request the consent of the EU parliament to conclude the agreement, it said in a statement.

The Council’s decision also involves provisional application of the agreement, says the statement published on the EU body’s official website. 

The Council members representing the EU member states also adopted a joint interpretative instrument that will provide “a binding interpretation of CETA´s terms on specific issues.”

“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 Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia, which currently holds the rotating EU Council presidency.

READ MORE: EU-Canada trade deal in shambles with Belgium's arbitration revision demand

The deal between the EU and Canada will be applied on the provisional basis only after its approval by the EU Parliament, pending ratification by all of the member states. Provisional application will concern exclusively the provisions that are under the jurisdiction of the EU.

The agreement will be signed and concluded as a mixed agreement in accordance with the EU Commission’s decision from July 5, 2016. That means that it should be signed by both the EU authorities and the member states and then ratified by each relevant national and regional parliament. Only after that it will fully come into force.

Canada has welcome the EU’s decision, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing that he would fly to Brussels to sign the free trade deal with the European Union this weekend.

"The Canada-EU Summit will be Sunday. Great news and I'm looking forward to being there," Trudeau said on Twitter.

The deal was passed late Friday night, soon after Belgian politicians overcame their internal differences that had been blocking the treaty. After five of the regional parliaments had reached an agreement with the federal government just after midnight on Thursday, the Belgian Parliament hastily approved the proposed amendments.

The four-page addition to the 1,600-page treaty was earlier endorsed by the ambassadors from 28 EU member states. The primary opposition to the treaty came from Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia, which eventually voted in favor of the trade agreement.

“The amended and corrected CETA is more just than the old CETA. It offers more guarantees and it is what I will defend,” Walloonian Minister-President Paul Magnette said as he presented the amended version of the deal to the regional Parliament.

The amended version of the deal is designed to quell Belgians’ fears that CETA would fail to protect the locals against big multinational corporations that could drive them out of business. The agreement also provided a safeguard clause for farmers.

Not everyone was so happy that the Belgians dropped their opposition to the trade deal.

“It is clear that the text of CETA stays the same: the DNA of CETA is one of deregulation and it puts nations in competition at an unprecedented level,” said Frederic Gillot of PTB-GO, a hard-left Belgian party that is winning voters from the ruling Socialists.

There have been protests across Europe against global free trade deals, including the Transatlantic Trade and Industrial Pact (TTIP) with the United States.