Officials cancelled a summit due to take place in Brussels on Thursday, after a fresh attempt to salvage the EU-Canada trade deal, known as CETA, failed to produce an agreement on Wednesday night.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to appear alongside European leaders and sign the historic free-trade deal on Wednesday but the legislature of Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium, continutes to refuse to support the deal.
No new date has been set for a summit, according to the BBC’s Europea Editor Katya Adler, suggesting the EU, Belgium, and Canada are no closer to find a breakthrough anytime soon.
A spokesperson for Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said on Wednesday morning that Canada is ready to sign the deal but the EU is yet to reach unanimity among all member states, with Belgium unable to support the deal unless the Wallonian parliament changes its mind.
“Given that not all EU member states are ready to sign the Ceta, the EU-Canada summit will not start today as planned. Canada remains ready to sign the agreement when Europe is ready,” Tusk’s spokesperson said.
Belgium, like other EU countries, operates under a federalist political system. This means regional governments are granted significant powers which enables them to delay and block legislation at the national level.
Wallonia, a French-speaking region of Belgium with a population of around 3.5 million people, grabbed the world’s attention last week when it vetoed CETA and then refused to change its mind after a series of negotiations.
The Belgian government had hoped that talks on Wednesday evening would lead to a breakthrough however Wallonian officials said more work needed to be done, the Financial Times reports.
The fate of the EU-Canada trade agreement could have huge implications for Britain ahead of its withdrawal from the 28-nation bloc.Tusk claimed last week that failure to complete CETA would make striking post-Brexit trade deals with Britain near-impossible.
“If you are not able to convince people that trade agreements are in their interests … we will have no chance to build public support for free trade, and I am afraid that means that CETA could be our last free-trade agreement,” he said.
Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU’s trade commissioner, said that if the EU “can’t make it with Canada, I’m not sure we can make it with UK.”
Linda Lim, a trade expert at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, echoed Tusk and Malmstrom’s remarks when Business Insider spoke to her earlier this week. “If this [CETA] doesn’t go through it makes it much more difficult for Britain to negotiate something with the EU. Even before the CETA collapse, it was always going to be difficult for Britain to get every party in the EU to agree to a deal,” Lim said.
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