Tuesday

28th Mar 2017

Canada's PM cancels EU summit amid Ceta woes

  • Belgium's French speakers want more guarantees on the EU-Canada trade pact. (Photo: Die Linke)

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has cancelled a trip to Brussels, as Belgium failed on Wednesday (26 October) to clear internal opposition to the EU-Canada free-trade pact (Ceta).

“Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement whenever the EU is,” a spokesman for Canada’s trade minister Chrystia Freeland told Global News television.

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Ceta has been signed by 27 of 28 EU states. But some of the French-speaking entities in Belgium, which have devolved powers to approve international trade treaties, have refused to give the federal government permission to sign.

Representatives of the nine Belgian entities talked until late on Wednesday, and will keep talking on Thursday.

Belgium’s foreign affairs minister Didier Reynders refused to call the situation a failure.

”We are waiting for a concrete answer from the entities, so we can present the Belgian position at a meeting of EU ambassadors tomorrow,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Other people in the room said the negotiations had made headway, but the French-speakers wanted to consult experts and lawyers on what has been agreed so far.

According to Belgian public broadcaster RTBF, the Belgians agreed to a general safeguard clause, which would allow any regional entity within a federal structure like Belgium's to withdraw the country from Ceta.

They also want a contested investment protection system to become a real public court, amid fears that the mechanism, in its current shape, is biased towards corporate interests.

Farmers would also see special protection and support measures triggered if they are hurt by Canadian competition.

”If we manage to agree on this in Belgium, the proposal will be presented to the other EU member states. Then it will have to be approved by [Belgium's] regional parliaments,” said Paul Magnette, Wallonia's minister-president.

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