The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which the EU and Canada have been negotiating for the better part of seven years and just concluded in February, may be at risk of not moving forward thanks to Belgium.
Belgium said this week that it wouldn’t support the trade deal because its French-speaking Wallonia region still has reservations about certain aspects of the agreement and all 28 EU member countries must support the deal to move it forward.
The Belgian government had a deadline of Monday for getting Wallonia to agree to the deal so that CETA could be signed as scheduled on Thursday at a summit European Council president Donald Tusk and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau were slated to attend.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said, however, that the country was not yet prepared to agree to the deal (concerns about it posing a risk to its environmental and labor standards among the hangups) and needed more time to assess changes that have already been agreed to this week, Reuters reported.
CETA—if put into place—would remove roughly 9,000 tariffs and open up free trade between Canada and the EU.
Tusk still seems to think there’s time to get the deal signed, saying on his Twitter Monday: “Together with PM @JustinTrudeau, we think Thursday’s summit still possible. We encourage all parties to find a solution. There’s yet time.”
A failed CETA wouldn’t bode well for the EU and up-in-the-air trade deals with the U.S. and Japan as the bloc already battles to regain its balance after the Brexit vote left the economy reeling.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal between the U.S. and EU, may not move forward any time soon either.
European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said last month that trade ministers were doubtful that they’d get the deal done before President Obama leaves office, though U.S. trade leaders are hopeful of at least carrying the deal as far as they can before America changes hands, lest it falter while the incoming president decides how to handle it.
“These are dark days for European trade policy,” Ulrich Grillo, president of the Federation of German Industries told Reuters. “This blockade is undermining the trust of international partners in the EU.”