Wallonia - the mouse that roared

Wallonia - the mouse that roared
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters, Politico, The Guardian, BBC
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How has the tiny Belgian region brought a landmark global trade deal to the brink of collapse?


Emergency talks are underway in Brussels to try to salvage a landmark free-trade deal between the EU and Canada.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz has held separate talks with representatives from Canada and the Belgian region of Wallonia in a bid to save the CETA agreement.

The deal has effectively been scuppered by tiny Wallonia, one of Belgium’s five administrative regions.

The agreement needs unanimous agreement both from within and between all 28 of the EU member states to allow it to be signed with Canada.

The Wallonian parliament has refused to give its approval, meaning Belgium as a country could not give its full assent.

Failure to agree a deal could call into question the EU’s ability to agree other free trade deals like the ongoing TTIP with the US or even the UK’s Brexit arrangements.

Monday evening

This is the final deadline for a decision on whether the CETA deal will be signed off. It allows the Canadian prime minister enough time to travel to Brussels for the signature.

The document is due to be signed in the Belgian capital next Thursday.

CETA – what’s the story?

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is in jeopardy after it was rejected a week ago by one of Belgium’s regional parliaments.

The Socialist-led parliament in Wallonia passed a resolution against accepting the landmark free-trade deal a week past Friday.

Deputies argued that the deal grants too much power to
multinational companies.

CETA – what would it involve?

The agreement would eliminate tariffs on most goods between the two parties.

Some think it will increase trade between the partners by 20%.

But others are concerned about the market being flooded with cheap imports.

CETA – why should I be interested?

The wide-reaching free-trade deal would theoretically make the price and sale of goods between EU member states and Canada cheaper and easier.

However, there is additional significance, particularly for the UK.

Insiders say the difficulties the trade deal is having have
consequences for the future Brexit negotiations.

Some say disagreement within the EU, even from a tiny authority like Wallonia, could make it harder for the bloc as a whole to agree a deal with the UK to leave the single market on terms both parties are happy with.


Diplomats are watching closely.

CETA – who’s who

Didier Reynders:

  • Belgian Foreign Minister
  • Politically liberal

Justin Trudeau

  • Canadian Prime Minister
  • Politically liberal

Paul Magnette

  • Minister-President of Wallonia
  • Has vowed to stop Belgium signing the deal

Chrystia Freeland

  • Canadian Trade Minister
  • Abandoned talks on Friday

Martin Schulz

  • President of European Parliament
  • Holding separate talks with stakeholders involved

CETA in numbers

  • 7 – the number of years spent negotiating the agreement
  • 28 – all EU member states must agree for the deal to go through
  • 28 – national parliaments
  • 10 – regional parliaments
  • 3.5 million – the population of Wallonia
  • 507 million – number of EU citizens
  • 1 – Wallonia’s population as percentage of EU population

CETA – a problem of politics?

Brussels insiders say it is not only the text of the CETA deal that is causing the problem, nor the question of the addition or removal of particular declarations.

The problem is said to be partly political.

The Wallonian parliament is Socialist-led.

Socialist and liberal party groups from the European Parliament are described as “applying pressure” on the parliament in Namur.


The European Commission is “directly engaging” with the Wallonia representation to the EU.

The final deadline is Monday evening. That is when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have to cancel his trip to Brussels to sign the agreement.

What they are saying

“What we are witnessing is a degrading of the authority of the EU to do a lot of things in these areas (trade and commercial policy)” – Fredrik Erixon, director of the
European Centre for International Political Economy.

“Britain’s final deal with the EU will too be subject to the whim of 38 national and regional parliaments. As we have seen in Francophone Belgium, public opinion in the rest of Europe is volatile on questions of trade and deluded Brexiteers will get a shock if they think our partners are going to give us an easy ride,”- David Martin, Labour
MEP, EU parliament trade committee member.

“It is not just about EU-Canada, it is about the future of EU trade policy,” – unnamed senior EU diplomat.


“The EU is not a reliable partner in trade agreements at the moment” – analyst Andrew Khan, BBC Radio 4 Today, 22-10

Who was the mouse and why did it roar? Find out here


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