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16th Jan 2022

Belgians meet for fresh Canada talks

  • Protest against EU-Canada free-trade agreement Ceta. (Photo: Campact)

Belgian federal and regional authorities are meeting on Wednesday morning (26 October) for more discussions on the EU-Canada free-trade pact, Ceta.

They made some progress during a six-hour negotiating session on Tuesday, Belgium’s foreign minister Didier Reyners said.

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But Belgium’s French-speaking entities - Wallonia, Brussels capital region and the French linguistic community - still refuse to give the federal government the mandate to sign the trade treaty.

The German-speaking community also said on Tuesday it was withholding its consent, although it doesn't oppose the deal.

Wallonia is due to present new proposals on Wednesday, notably on agriculture.

All 28 EU countries need to approve Ceta before the European Commission can sign it. Belgium's constitution gives communities and regions devolved powers to approve trade deals.

Reynders couldn’t say whether Belgium would be in position to approve the deal before Thursday, when Ceta is due to be signed at an EU-Canada summit.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and European Council president Donald Tusk spoke on the phone on Monday and said that they still believed it would be possible to hold the meeting.

But the Walloon leader Paul Magnette has rejected the deadline and warned he would interrupt negotiations if he was threatened with ultimatums.

A spokesman for the European Commission said on Tuesday there was need for ”patience” while Belgium tried to establish its position.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz, meanwhile, said he believed a solution would not be found this week.

"We are on the way to find a compromise and solutions for questions raised by the Walloons, but also by citizens all over Europe," he told German radio on Tuesday.

"It would not be a drama to give negotiators 14 more days."

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.

Canada woos sceptical EU left on trade deal

Future of CETA largely hangs on the support of Europe’s social democrats. Canada’s trade minister has been touring hotspots of scepticism to convince them that the deal is progressive.

Belgium green lights unchanged Ceta

Wallonia and Brussels have voted to give the federal government the power to sign the EU-Canada trade deal, whose content is not altered by the new documents attached.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

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