Sun, Oct 30, 2016 - Page 16 News List

EU, Canada to sign trade accord as Wallonia relents

AP, BRUSSELS

The EU was scheduled to sign a long-delayed trade pact with Canada today after a hold-out Belgian region finally endorsed the agreement.

Ambassadors from the EU nations meeting in Brussels late on Friday paved the way for the signature of the deal and for it to be provisionally applied until all 28 member states have legally ratified it.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter that an EU-Canada summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to be held today to sign the accord.

“I am delighted to confirm that the EU is ready to sign the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada. It represents a milestone in the EU’s trade policy and our commitment to it,” said Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose country now holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.

The move came after parliamentarians in Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia voted by 58 votes to five, with no abstentions, to support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

Walloon Parliament President Andre Antoine said that “Europe must also pass by Wallonia.”

Smaller than the US state of New Jersey, Wallonia blocked the deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians for several weeks, deeply embarrassing the bloc.

The EU needed unanimity among all its 28 members and Belgium needed the backing of all its regions to approve the pact.

Trudeau had been due to sign the accord with EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, but was forced to cancel his flight.

Work on the agreement was launched in 2009 and the text was actually finalized two years ago but sat in limbo awaiting endorsement.

Antoine thanked the lawmakers for working in “real democratic transparency.”

“This closes two years of work,” he said after voting finished.

Walloon politicians had argued that the deal would undermine labor, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies.

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