Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled his planned visit to the European Union (EU) capital Brussels today after deeming the chances of saving his country’s Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) free trade deal with the EU to be slim.
CETA was blocked by Belgium earlier this week, against the wishes of the other 27 EU member states, following opposition from its French-speaking Wallonia region.
The EU and Canada have been scrambling to try to save the CETA free trade deal all this week, as previously reported in ‘GTNews’.
The troubled EU-Canada deal is not yet officially dead, but it is on life support. The EU is putting pressure on the Belgium government to get its recalcitrant Wallonia region, and two other French-speaking areas that objected on the grounds of a perceived weakening of labour, environmental and consumer standards, to change its mind. Concerns that CETA gives too much power to multinational corporates have also been raised.
The CETA deal was originally due to be formally signed into law today, but after Belgium blocked it the EU had hoped to use today’s meeting to instead try to save it.
CETA has involved seven years of negotiation. It was supposed to eliminate 98% of tariffs between the EU and Canada, saving the former’s exporters EUR500m in duties annually.
European Commission (EC) President, Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the executive arm of the European trading bloc, has stated that despite the setback, he was still optimistic the Belgian blockage could be resolved. At the time of writing it is not clear how, but behind the scenes negotiations continue.
Today’s cancelled meeting is a big setback for the EU. Its ability to get individual member nations to agree to the EC executive negotiating bilateral deals on their behalf is now seriously in doubt.
The future of other free trade deals involving the EU, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US must now be in question. How this fiasco will impact its future Brexit negotiations as Britain leaves the EU is also a relevant point.
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