Thursday

23rd Jan 2020

EU signs Canada trade pact, rejects 'post-truth' critics

  • Justin Trudeau (second left) said his country had “learned a great deal on how EU works” when Wallonia vetoed Ceta's signing. (Photo: Consilium)

The European Union and Canada signed a trade pact on Sunday (30 October), brushing aside concerns that the opening of markets could have negative consequences for European standards and economic interests.

The treaty, known as Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), was endorsed by Canada’s liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau and top EU officials in Brussels.

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

“It was not easy to get here. But as a Canadian proverb says, 'patience is a tree whose root is bitter, but its fruit is very sweet’,” said European Council president Donald Tusk, representing EU member states.

The deal was seven years in the making.

The signing ceremony was originally scheduled for Thursday, but had to be postponed when Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region used its devolved powers to veto Belgium’s approval of the deal.

Intense negotiations, ending in a special declaration on some of Wallonia’s key concerns, broke the deadlock.

Trudeau said he didn't hold grudges.

“The fact that people were asking tough questions on a deal that will have a significant impact on our economies, giving us the opportunity to demonstrate that that impact will be positive, is a good thing," he said.

EU officials were less forgiving.

Tusk said the negotiations “showed how important impressions and emotions are in the modern world”.

“It showed that facts and figures won't stand up for themselves alone. That post-factual reality and post-truth politics pose a great challenge on both sides of the Atlantic.”

About 100 people demonstrated outside the building where the summit was taking place. Some tried to storm the building and threw red paint at the facade to symbolise that democracy was bleeding.

“Free trade and globalisation have protected hundreds of millions of people from poverty and hunger,” Tusk said.

“The alternative to free trade is isolationism and protectionism, a return to national egoisms, and as a result - the threat of violent conflict.”

"We should be able to convince our citizens that free trade is in their interest, and not just big companies and corporations,” he added.

"Belgium should think about how it functions at the international level," European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker added.

The Luxembourg official said he was vexed over accusations that Ceta would lower labour standards.

Ceta will set a gold standard for the world’s future trade agreements, he said.

The deal removes 99 percent of tariffs on trade exports between the EU and Canada. It opens up service markets and introduces a special investment protection system, through a dedicated dispute settlement mechanism.

Officials hope it will increase trade by €10.9 billion a year.

Ceta will now be voted in the European Parliament. It can then be provisionally applied pending a ratification process by all 28 member states that will involve 38 national and regional parliaments.

That means the deal could still be derailed, not least by Wallonia.

See no evil

Thursday’s declaration cleared the way for Ceta to be signed, but it doesn't guarantee that Belgium will also ratify the treaty.

Through the document, Wallonia reserved the right to refuse the deal at a later stage, and said it wouldn’t implement the investment protection system, fearing it gives too much power to corporate interests.

Belgium will also ask the European Court of Justice to clarify whether the investment protection system is compatible with EU treaties.

During the weekend, Belgian media reported that EU commissioner for digital affairs, Gunther Oettinger, said that Wallonia was a ”micro-region run by communists blocking the rest of Europe” at a business dinner in Germany.

Some 2,100 cities and regions all over Europe have declared themselves “Ceta-free zones”.

Almost 3.5 million people have signed a petition to stop Ceta and TTIP, a similar EU trade deal with the US.

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.

Belgium breaks Ceta deadlock

[Updated] Belgian leaders signed a joint declaration, clearing the way for the government to sign the EU-Canada trade pact. Wallonia's leader Paul Magnette said it was a victory for his people, and the rest of Europe.

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.

Opinion

The Wallonian mouse that roared

The Ceta battle was over what kind of globalisation will prevail, and how to cope with its turbulent centrifugal forces that pull at society’s seams. Wallonia deserves credit for shining a glaring spotlight where it was needed.

TTIP's future in Trump's hands

EU commissioners admit they "frankly don't know" what the US president-elect intends to do with the US-EU trade talks.

News in Brief

  1. UK watchdog unveils online child-privacy standards
  2. Alleged 'bully' nominated for EESC presidency
  3. Greens/EFA fail to agree on accepting Catalan MEPs
  4. MEPs approve over 55 gas projects for EU funding
  5. Italy deputy PM Di Maio quits as Five Star party leader
  6. EU investment bank to keep pressure on Turkey over gas
  7. 'Rare' migrant boat from Belgium to UK sinks
  8. First annual rule of law report expected this year, Reynders said

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.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. EU warned on 'vigilance' after Davos spy fail
  2. What's Libya's impact on EU foreign policy?
  3. EU commission 'lacks ambition' on future conference
  4. Will US privacy-lite hollow out GDPR?
  5. Senior Polish member at EU body faces Belgian abuse probe
  6. Why isn't Germany helping gay rights in Hungary, Poland?
  7. US retiree, scammed by former EU official, awaits justice
  8. Vienna-Brussels night train returns amid EU green talk

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us