Stalled EU-Canada Trade Deal Gets Greenlight Following Belgium Approval

One week after Canada demonstratively walked out of European trade talks, with Canada's Chrystia Freeland saying that "the European Union is not capable right now to have an international agreement, even with a country that has European values like Canada", moments ago a planned trade deal between the European Union and Canada overcame a key hurdle Thursday when Belgium said it would approve the accord, marking the end of a contentious process that threatened to derail the EU’s trade agenda.

Paul Magnette, minister-president of the French-speaking region of

Wallonia in Brussels on Wednesday

The so-called Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, had been on the verge (and perhaps beyond) the very of collapse in recent weeks after opposition by Wallonia, Belgium’s French-speaking region, kept the country’s leadership from supporting the deal. “Belgian agreement on CETA,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel wrote on his Twitter account. “All parliaments are now able to approve by tomorrow at midnight. Important step for EU and Canada.”

The tentative deal took place just hours after Canadian PM Trudeau cancelled a trip to sign the so-called Ceta pact at a ceremony in Brussels. In question now is when the regional Belgian parliaments that have objected to the trade deal will vote to allow the country’s government to support it.  The accord needs the full backing of all 28 member states. But while the Belgian federal government supports the trade pact, it still needed the green light from its five regional authorities before it could give its official approval.

As the FT adds, Belgian leaders had come close to a deal on Wednesday but their talks broke up without definitive agreement shortly before midnight, leading to the cancellation of an EU-Canada summit that had been scheduled for months. So, following weeks of intense talks with the leadership of Wallonia and its other regions, Belgium finally got the green light to back CETA on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Belgian prime minister said the Belgian government had reached a deal with its regions to back CETA and that the text of the deal was sent to the EU so it could be approved by the rest of the bloc.

The news will be well-received by the EU, whose officials have been agonizing about what implications the inability to sign CETA would have on the bloc’s trade agenda. Europe has in recent months been stuck in trade limbo, with the TTIP deal with the US looking increasingly unlikely following significant internal protests in France, while the ongoing post-Brexit fiasco will take years to be resolved.