Wallonia does not yield; CETA trade deal talks collapse

Canada's Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has left what were believed to be the ultimate talks with the Walloon PM Paul Magnette to break the deadlock about the Walloon blocking of the CETA agreement between Europe and Canada. In an emotional address, Freeman underlined her immense disappointment, but also said that she thinks it's impossible to come to an agreement with the Walloon government.

Belgium is divided on the matter. Flanders gives the deal thumbs up, but Wallonia, where left-wing MP's have a majority in parliament, says no. Without the green light from all its regions, Belgium as a country simply cannot give its go-ahead. Belgium is thus the only country in the whole European block of 28 to say 'no' to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. 

It's the Francophone socialists (PS) and Christian democrats (CDH) who are coalition partners in the Walloon government. The greens are also against, but are on the opposition benches. Right-wing MR, the liberal party of Belgian PM Charles Michel, is in favour of the CETA deal, but its hands are tied by the Walloon parliament - as is the case for Flanders.

"We worked very hard"

Paul Magnette, the Walloon Prime Minister, is leading the opposition against CETA. Magnette (PS) negotiated intensely with Freeland today. Headway was made on the Walloon objections concerning agriculture, but the arbitration procedure that can be initiated by multinationals proved too big a stumbling block. It's about an independent court system to resolve disputes that critics say can be exploited by big business to dictate public policy.

"We worked very hard with the European Commission and many other European countries, such as Germany, France, Austria, Bulgaria and Romania", underlined Freeland. "I think the EU is not capable to reach an accord with Canada at this moment." Freeland saw no other way out than to leave the talks.

Paul Magnette told his regional parliament that he had made no breakthrough in the talks.

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