Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

Wallonia rejects fresh EU ultimatum on Canada trade deal

The government of Belgium's French-speaking Walloon region rejected a fresh EU ultimatum to sign off on an EU free trade deal with Canada over the weekend.

Wallonia's minister-president Paul Magnette on Sunday (23 October) reportedly denounced a new European Commission proposal that aimed to alleviate concerns over an arbitration system that allows big firms to sue countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

A source close to Magnette told the AFP that the commission proposal, sent Sunday, was even less progressive than those received on Friday and Saturday.

The commission proposal had also come with an ultimatum for the Walloon government to secure the deal by late Monday at the risk of cancelling the pact altogether.

Magnette told the Belga news agency that such an ultimatum was “not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights”.

A marmalade of texts

Walloon parliament spokesman Andre Antoine described the deal as a “marmalade of texts”.

“I have 300 pages of treaty, 1,300 pages of annexes. I have two, maybe three interpretative declarations. I have one interpretative instrument. I have emails, I have mails, I have bilateral declarations. I even have now a declaration from Belgium with other countries,” he told RTL Belgique radio on Monday (24 October).

The latest move follows a stand-off between EU trade negotiators and the Walloon government over outstanding issues on the EU-Canada deal, Ceta.

Belgium's government needs the support from all five of its regional authorities before it can sign off the deal.

The Walloons have so far refused despite direct appeals by Canada's minister for trade, Chrystia Freeland, who returned to Canada on Saturday amid threats to scupper an agreement that took years to negotiate.

Talks to reach a deal and appease Walloon concerns also appear increasingly acrimonious.

Magnette on Saturday hit back at EU negotiators for their persistence on getting Belgium to back a deal largely panned by anti-globalisation groups.

"It's a shame that the European Union pressure on those blocking the fight against fiscal fraud is not as intense," tweeted the Socialist regional leader.

Corporate power

Critics say the deal is a precursor to a larger EU trade pact with the United States under talks known as TTIP.

Fears over corporate power and the roll back of environmental and social standards underpin arguments against both free trade deals.

Wallonia's continued resistance to Ceta also casts doubts on whether Canada's prime minister Justin Trudeau will arrive in Brussels on Thursday to sign the deal.

European Council chief Donald Tusk is expected to discuss the latest developments on Monday with Trudeau and Belgium's prime minister Charles Michel.

Canada is the EU's 12th largest trading partner.

Ceta failure deepens EU trade crisis

Canada said on Friday that the free-trade agreement with the EU had failed and that the bloc was "not capable" of concluding agreements.

EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord

While EU ambassadors gave their tacit apporoval for a new text based on wallonia's requests, the French-speaking Belgian region again rejected to sign off the Canada-EU trade deal.

Belgian veto leaves EU-Canada deal in limbo

Belgium prime minister Charles Michel said he was not able to sign Ceta because of a veto by Wallonia and other French-speaking entities. But an EU-Canada summit could still take place this week.

Belgians meet for fresh Canada talks

Negotiators made headway on Tuesday but failed to break the deadlock on the EU-Canada free-trade agreement, which is still blocked by Belgium's French-speaking entities.

Trade deal ratification needs member states, EU court says

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the Singapore trade deal needs member states' ratification in its current form. It said that only investments do not belong under the EU's sole competence, potentially removing Brexit complications.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

Vietnam sent champagne to MEPs ahead of trade vote

A trade deal with Vietnam sailed through the European Parliament's international trade committee and after its embassy sent MEPs bottles of Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne over Christmas.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis
  2. EU fighting shortages and faulty medical supplies
  3. New EU navy operation to keep migrant details secret
  4. MEP: Constituents are our window into this tragedy
  5. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  6. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  7. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough
  8. Trying to think straight about coronavirus

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us