Belgian Region of Wallonia Blocks CETA: The Future of EU’s FTAs in Jeopardy

Written by | Monday, October 24th, 2016

Belgium’s region of Wallonia last week blocked the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada after intense talks, direct involvement of the Canadian government and last minute concessions. Wallonia’s Minister President, Paul Magnette, had requested direct talks with the Canadian government whom he deemed more flexible and open than the European Commission.
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, said that the negotiations were not very fruitful and added that this marked “the end and failure of the discussions with Wallonia”. She added that this outcome was “very disappointing” and “a missed opportunity”. Ms Freeland not only criticized Wallonia but also the EU as a whole, saying that the bloc was simply not ready to sign such a deal.
Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, was also very disappointed and addressed the European Council with sarcasm. The Commission was convinced that the political will of the EU leadership would be enough to overcome the Belgian opposition to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Mr Juncker believes that a solution could be found in a few days. “I believe that this CETA agreement is the best agreement that we have ever been able to negotiate to date,” he insisted.
European Council President Donald Tusk said that the EU was constantly failing its credibility test. He warned that if the EU is not able to finalize the CETA, this might be an end of free trade deals with Europe. “I remain concerned, for a good trade agreement with a close partner like Canada, and for Europe’s reputation,” Mr Tusk said.

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