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Belgian region scuppers EU-Canada free trade deal


brussels bureau

Belgian region scuppers EU-Canada free trade deal

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An EU-Canada free trade deal has been left hanging in the balance after talks between Canada and the regional government in Wallonia broke down.

The French-speaking region of Belgium is doggedly opposing the pact.

Under Belgium’s constitutional set up, regions have a say on trade matters.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian minister for international trade, walked out of negotiations in Namur on Friday, saying that she was returning to Canada.

“It seems evident for me and for Canada that the European Union is not now capable of having an international accord even with a country that has values as European as Canada,” she told reporters.

Belgium’s federal government backs the deal, but the leader of the centre-left regional government, Paul Magnette, worries that it hands too much power to foreign corporations.

Critics of CETA, as it is known, say planned special courts to settle disputes between private investors and government lack transparency.

“At this stage, for us, the document is not acceptable. We made it clear that as clearly as we can, for more than one year, that we have a problem with the arbitration mechanism,” Magnette said.

A European Commission official told euronews that the EU still believes the deal can be signed.

“The European Commission doesn’t consider that this is the end of the process paving the ways for the signature of the trade deal reached between the European union and Canada,“ the source said.

Canada’s prime minister had been set to travel to Brussels next week to finalise the agreement.

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