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Ceta: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancels trip to Europe as free trade deal breaks down

'Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement when Europe is ready,' says a spokesperson for Canada's minister of international trade

Katie Forster
Thursday 27 October 2016 10:09 BST
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Rex)

Justin Trudeau was due to arrive in Brussels today to sign a new trade deal between Canada and the EU.

But the Canadian Prime Minister has cancelled his trip after a small region in Belgium rejected the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as Ceta.

Earlier this week Belgium said it could not give its assent to the deal without the backing of the French-speaking Wallonia region, which is smaller than Wales and home to just 3.5 million people.

Talks to save the agreement, which has taken seven years to negotiate, are believed to be underway this morning after progress was made yesterday in meetings between Belgian’s national government and regional leaders.

“Canada remains ready to sign this important agreement when Europe is ready,” a spokesperson for Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister for international trade, told Radio Canada.

Politicians in Wallonia voted 46 to 16 against the deal because of fears local workers will be laid off if the agreement leads to cheaper farming and industrial imports.

The deal’s proponents say it would yield billions in added trade through customs and tariff cuts and other measures to lower barriers to commerce.

Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland with European Parliament President Martin Schulz at the European parliament in Brussels (EPA)

Mr Trudeau and his delegates were supposed to attend a special summit to sign the agreement, but decided not to come at the last moment due to delays caused by Wallonia’s refusal to sign.

A new date has not yet been set, according to The Guardian.

Yesterday EU president Donald Tusk indicated Belgium had made progress in lifting Wallonia’s veto and said he was hopeful the summit would still be possible.

But Rudy Demotte, leader of the Wallonia-Brussels federation, said: “we still need a bit of time for some verification and political contacts to see if the conditions are respected and if the texts match legally what we want to express politically”.

Europe's failure to sign Ceta was highlighted during the UK's EU referendum campaign as one reason Britain would be better off outside the union.

But it has also been underlined as a sign that the UK will have difficulty organising its own free trade deal with the EU if it leaves the single market after Brexit talks.

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