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Trudeau seeks to provisionally apply CETA by July 1, Wallonia threatens to block final ratification of the deal

Wallonia’s Minister-President Paul Magnette says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s then-trade minister Chrystia Freeland and CETA envoy Pierre Pettigrew used “emotional pitches and blunt threats” to pressure Wallonia on CETA.

The Trudeau government is trying to provisionally apply the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by July 1.

The CBC reports, “Canada is preparing to provisionally apply [CETA] by July 1. In Canada, the federal cabinet ratifies CETA, so unlike in Europe, there’s no voting drama here [but there is implementation legislation that has to be passed]. [That] legislation to bring Canada’s laws and regulations into compliance, C-30, is now before the Senate foreign affairs and trade committee.”

CBC reporter Janyce McGregor comments, “There’s no sign of senators holding it up.”

Her article adds, “Provinces and territories have to comply too. Ontario and Quebec needed to legislate changes — Ontario has done so and the process is underway in Quebec (but expected to pass.) Other provinces will amend regulations and policies by cabinet order.” This would presumably include the province of Newfoundland and Labrador which, as highlighted by Council of Canadians activist Ken Kavanagh in this blog, would be relinquishing its constitutional right to minimum processing requirements (MPRs) in the fishery sector to enter into the deal.

In sharp contrast, The Globe and Mail now reports, “The trade deal between Canada and the European Union is facing a new challenge from the Belgium region of Wallonia which is threatening to block final ratification of the agreement. Wallonia First Minister Paul Magnette said in an interview that his government will not support the CETA trade deal when it comes up for ratification unless changes are made to how disputes are resolved. Mr. Magnette also said his government is challenging the legality of the dispute resolution mechanism in the European Court of Justice, which could take at least two years to rule.”

The article explains, “Canada and the EU signed the deal last October and most of it is about to come into force on a provisional basis [as noted in the CBC article]. However, the entire agreement must still be ratified by all 28 EU countries and 10 regional legislatures. That process is expected to begin soon and it could take a couple of years. And by requiring unanimity, the EU has handed a veto to any single legislature, including French-speaking Wallonia, which has about 3 1/2 million inhabitants.”

And it highlights, “In his book, titled CETA: When Europe Derails, Mr. Magnette offers a candid assessment of how Canadian and EU officials [including then-trade minister Chrystia Freeland and CETA envoy Pierre Pettigrew] tried to pressure Wallonia, using emotional pitches and blunt threats. One ambassador to an EU country told Mr. Magnette’s cabinet that a major company would reconsider a big investment in Wallonia if it failed to back CETA. [Pettigrew told Magnette] that Wallonia’s refusal to back CETA would be a punch in the stomach for Mr. Trudeau and that there would ‘inevitably be heavy repercussions for relations between Wallonia and Canada’.”

As noted in this blog, the final ratification of CETA also faces challenges in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. Last week, European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom acknowledged, “All countries have promised to do their utmost to get this through their national parliaments. I would say that in 20 to 22 [of the 28 member state] countries, absolutely not a problem – it will pass smoothly.” But as The Globe and Mail points out, unanimity is required and any one of the 38 national and regional parliaments could veto the agreement.

The other question that has emerged is this: If the full ratification of CETA is blocked, will the provisional application be undone? Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey comments, “The German constitutional court has already ruled that provisional application can be undone. And in the country statements adopted by the European Council (the EU institution comprised of the heads of state or government of the member states, which sets the EU’s overall political direction and priorities) many countries reiterated their right to undo provisional application.”

To tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that you oppose the C-30 implementation legislation that will enable the provisional application of CETA by July 1, please see our action alert here.