The European Union has not reached consensus on signing the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and there will be no signing ceremony on October 27!
Yesterday, Reuters reported, “The European Union has given Belgium’s federal government until late on Monday to secure backing for an EU-Canada trade deal from the region of Wallonia or a planned summit to sign the pact will be canceled, an EU source said on Sunday. European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs the collective body of the EU’s 28 national leaders, will speak to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel by late on Monday, the source said, so that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can decide whether to fly to Brussels for the signing on Thursday.”
That article highlighted, “If Michel cannot assure Tusk that Belgium will be able to let the EU sign the CETA agreement, then Thursday’s EU-Canada summit will be postponed and no new date will be set, although the source said neither the EU nor Canada is willing to give up on a free trade pact that has been years in the making.”
It’s now mid-afternoon in Brussels and Reuters reports, “Prime Minister Charles Michel said he had told European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday that Belgium could not agree to sign an EU-Canada trade deal because he had failed to secure the agreement of regional authorities. ‘I have officially told Tusk that we have no agreement’, Michel told reporters after a meeting with the regional leaders.”
This is the official confirmation that there will be no CETA signing ceremony as planned this coming Thursday.
A few days ago, Walloon minister-president Paul Magnette stated, “This treaty affects the lives of 500 million Europeans and 35 million Canadians for years and years. We can take a few weeks, a few months to analyze the problems and overcome them.” Today, Walloon parliament president Andre Antoine said, “A reasonable time frame would be the end of the year. With that, we could get there.”
But the issues of concern are substantive.
The Associated Press has reported, “Politicians in Wallonia argue the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies.”
BNN adds, “The Walloon government was awaiting new proposals from the European Commission, according to a source close to Magnette. They would need to be presented to the regional parliament, although no date had been set for this. Walloons have concerns about the threat of surging pork and beef imports from Canada and an independent court system to settle disputes between states and foreign investors, which critics fear hands power to multinationals. Once the core of the Belgian economy, Wallonia has seen coal mines shut and steel jobs disappear and distrusts globalization. Just last month, Caterpillar announced plans to close a plant there, cutting some 2,000 jobs.”
And from Belgium, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey has told us that beyond these issues, Wallonia is also concerned about the deal’s negative list on services (meaning it applies to every service unless otherwise stated thus raising concerns about privatization and the ability to remunicipalize a public service), the lack of protection from a flood of dairy imports, the lack of Belgian geographic indicators (that protect products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography), and says that the side declaration to the deal that was intended to assuage concerns is not legally-binding.
All of this suggests that a substantive rewriting of CETA would be required to secure Wallonia’s consent. The deal that Wallonia has rejected took more than seven years to negotiate.
There has been no reaction yet from the Trudeau government.