Belgium breaks deadlock on landmark EU-Canada trade pact

A landmark trade deal between the European Union and Canada is expected to go ahead after the Belgian government cleared a major hurdle. Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel said his national government had reached an agreement with the holdout region of Wallonia, whose opposition had held up the deal for weeks. The free-trade deal, known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), needs unanimity from all 28 EU governments to be signed.

I am sorry for all the other Europeans we made wait and for our Canadian partners. But if we took a bit of time, what we achieved here is important, not only for Wallonia but for all Europeans.

Paul Magnette President of Wallonia

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been due to travel to Brussels today to sign the deal, but the plan was scrapped as the negotiations with Wallonia dragged on. In a cautious welcome, Canada called the announcement a “positive development”. The new text agreed in Belgium will still have to be put to the other EU nations, and no date for a new visit by Mr Trudeau has been set. Still, the Belgian go-ahead was a huge relief to EU leaders, as the CETA pact has been seven years in the making and liberalises trade between the EU bloc of 500 million consumers and 35 million Canadians. Furthermore, the negotiations were seen as a litmus test ahead of Brexit talks.