NewsAlert: Belgian region: unable to clear EU-Canada trade deal by Monday


The European Union's attempt to finalize a massive free trade deal with Canada remained in limbo Friday, with the tiny Belgian region that's holding up the pact saying its objections had not yet been sufficiently addressed.

The prime minister said she was "disappointed" by the blocks hit by the planned CETA deal but did not believe that they reflected on the UK's likely ability to get its own trade agreement with the bloc after Brexit.

Provisional implementation would include all aspects of the deal relating to trade, whereas the court to settle investment disputes would only come into force with full implementation. "We now hope that Belgium will bring this matter to a successful close".

The EU and Canada want to sign the deal at a summit on Thursday in Brussels, for which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would fly in. However, despite endorsement by 27 of the EU's 28 member states, the Belgian region of Wallonia has refused to give its backing.

Without all regions of Belgium supporting the agreement, the country can not sign. Due to internal power struggles, the President of a region is taking all 28 EU States hostage. "We encourage all parties to find a solution".

Michel said he was still open to dialogue with the main holdout, the region of Wallonia, and that it was too early to say whether CETA was dead.

"We are not in a position to sign CETA", Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said after talks with Belgium's regional leaders in Brussels. "And the clear answer, at this stage, is no".

It left it open to what extent the European Union and Belgium could continue negotiating with the southern Belgian region of Wallonia, which needs to bless the deal before it can become official.

European Council President Donald Tusk has warned that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada could be the EU's last if governments are "not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interests".

Over the past week, Belgium missed two deadlines to agree to the deal and Canada briefly walked out of the trade talks before returning the next day.

During several days of talks among Wallonia's government, led by Paul Magnette, Canada and the European Commission, negotiators added further safeguards to ensure that concerns about not lowering the standard for public services, the environment and other sensitive areas were addressed.

"Each time they put forward such an ultimatum it makes a serene discussion and a democratic debate impossible", Magnette said. "I indicated that other parallel political contacts are still going on and that we could give counter proposals".