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CETA decision delayed at EU meeting, Trudeau government bullies to get deal

The Trudeau government has dispatched former Liberal trade minister Pierre Pettigrew to Europe to convince Wallonia to sign CETA.

News reports suggest that European Union member state representatives will not agree to conclude, sign and move toward the provisional application of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at a critical meeting in Luxembourg today!

Deutsche Welle reports, “EU ministers responsible for trade were due to have approved CETA on Tuesday. This would have paved the way for CETA to be signed at an EU-Canada summit attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on October 27. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said EU ministers were unlikely to give the go-ahead for the deal on Tuesday, as Wallonia was opposing it.”

The Associated Press adds, “[Malmstrom] acknowledged that member states will likely be unable to back a landmark trade deal with Canada as scheduled on Tuesday… [She] said objections from a Belgian region were still being worked on…”

Malmstrom says, “We’ve been working with them [Wallonia] intensively over the last days, trying to understand their concerns, trying to see whether we could accommodate them. We’re not really there yet. Hopefully we will move forward and we can make a decision very soon.”

But it’s not only Wallonia opposing CETA. German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel notes that Romania still has questions (regarding visa-free travel for its citizens to Canada). And it’s possible that there might be other European Union countries, including Bulgaria, Slovenia and Poland, that are also reluctant sign CETA.

More than 3.2 million Europeans have also signed a petition opposing CETA.

Malmstrom says she is still optimistic that CETA could be signed next week. She says there is still time over the next nine days to overcome Belgian objections before the October 27 Canada-EU summit.

Walloon Minister-President Paul Magnette says his region has faced “thinly veiled threats” from corporations in the days leading up to today’s meeting.

While Wallonia has constitutional rights that is appropriately exercising with respect to CETA, the CBC reports, “Canada has said the Wallonia votes aren’t binding.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau questioned the European Union’s “usefulness” if they could not sign CETA.

He stated, “If, in a week or two, we see that Europe is unable to sign a progressive trade agreement with a country like Canada, well then with whom will Europe do business in the years to come? In this post-Brexit situation where there are a great many questions about Europe’s usefulness, if Europe cannot manage to sign this agreement, then that sends a very clear message not just to Europe, but to the whole world, that Europe is choosing a path that is not productive for its citizens or the world.”

Trade minister Chrystia Freeland dispatched former Liberal trade minister Pierre Pettigrew to meet with Magnette in Paris on Friday. After the meeting, Magnette said “The pressures are very strong”, while a Canadian official said that Pettigrew’s talk with Magnette was “frank” and “valuable”.

The Canadian Press also notes, “David Lametti, Freeland’s parliamentary secretary, has also met with Walloon leaders in the region for talks.” CBC adds, “It’s not clear the frustration Trudeau articulated Thursday helped — nor the warning of Freeland’s parliamentary secretary David Lametti, who told legislators in Wallonia there would be ‘consequences’ if they reject CETA.”

And The Globe and Mail reports that the Canada European Roundtable for Business sent a “bluntly worded letter” to Magnette that was “circulated among Canadian media this weekend by the Trudeau government.”

The Council of Canadians is calling on the Canadian government and European Union member state governments to cancel the summit still scheduled to take place in Brussels on October 27. We are also calling on the Canadian government, EU officials and transnational corporations to stop their intense pressure on Wallonia to sign CETA and to instead listen to widely-held public concerns about the deal.