Canada Presses Ahead With EU Trade Deal Despite Belgian Hurdle

Canada is continuing its push for the ratification of its European Union trade pact despite a denunciation by a regional leader in Belgium, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bid to finalize the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU this fall hit a potential barrier Friday when Paul Magnette, leader of the Walloon regional government, said he won’t give Belgium full authority to ratify the pact.

Belgium maintains its federal government has final say on approval, not its regional parliaments. Nonetheless, Canada’s special envoy Pierre Pettigrew will meet Magnette later Friday, Freeland’s press secretary said as the Trudeau government warned against fallout should the deal collapse.

“If ‎Europe is incapable of signing a progressive trade deal with a country like Canada, this will send a clear and unfortunate signal,” Freeland spokesman Alex Lawrence said by e-mail. “CETA remains a top priority for Canada. We are still working with our partners in Europe to conclude this agreement.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said this week the country will determine its position on the deal Monday. EU trade ministers are due to meet on Oct. 18 in Luxembourg to give their verdict, and the pact needs the unanimous support of EU governments.

Canada remains focused on having CETA signed this fall and provisionally enacted in early 2017, Lawrence said. 

Trudeau reiterated his call for the deal to be passed on Thursday, after meeting French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in Ottawa. “By getting this deal done we’ll open up unprecedented markets for Canadian goods and services,” Trudeau told reporters.

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