24th Oct 2016

Wallonia hinders Canada-EU trade deal

  • The Canada trade deal is supposed to be signed on 27 October (Photo: Artem Popov)

Belgium's Wallonia region will block the federal government from signing the Canada-EU free trade accord, after a vote in the regional assembly on Friday (14 October) against approving the agreement.

"I will not give powers to the federal government and Belgium will not sign Ceta [the agreement] on 18 October," Wallonian prime minister Paul Magnette said on Friday.

But, Magnette said the vote should not be seen as being against trade or Canada.

He said that the so-called joint interpretative declaration, that clarifies the deal, does not give enough guarantees, as it does not have the same legal weight as the accord itself.

The French-speaking region has concerns about the deal's social and environmental impact, which could be addressed in a legally binding declaration.

The assembly voted 46 votes in favour, 16 against and one abstention.

Belgium's federal government needs the approval of all the country's six assemblies to sign the deal.

Wallonia's stalling is a diplomatic blow to the EU and its trade policy, as talks with US on a free trade deal also grind to a halt.

It also raises questions about future trade talks with the UK, as it exits the bloc.

EU trade ministers are due to gather in Luxembourg next Tuesday to approve the Canada deal, so it can be signed with prime minister Justin Trudeau in Brussels on 27 October.

Magnette on Friday urged the Belgian government to renegotiate the interpretative text, saying four or five EU member states are reluctant about the deal.

"We need to return to the negotiating table," he said. "We are less isolated than people think," he added.

Magnette is expected to travel to Paris later on Friday to discuss the issue with French president Francois Hollande.

"I am worried about the future of Europe, why add another crisis?," AFP quoted Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders, who still hopes to approve the deal, at Tuesday's talks with EU ministers.

The EU Commission on Friday did not want to comment on the vote in Wallonia.

"The process has begun, it is underway, we are following the debate in member states," a spokesman said.

The Slovak presidency of the EU said later on Friday that it is not for the presidency to comment the internal legislative process in Belgium.

"We have full confidence that in the end, Belgium will be on board, able to support the package at the trade ministers meeting next Tuesday. The Council meeting is set to take place as planned," they said in a statement.

"We are convinced that the overall deal is good and balanced," it added.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity