Thursday

24th May 2018

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."

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