Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Capital Business
Capital Business


Belgium’s Wallonia holds out against Canada trade pact

Protesters hold up a placard reading ‘3,4 million Europeans count on Wallonia – stop CETA’ during a demonstration in as a meeting in Namur, on October 18, 2016 © Belga/AFP / Nicolas Lambert

Brussels, Belgium, Oct 24 – A small Belgian region refused Monday to bow to growing pressure to back a key trade deal with Canada, heightening tensions within Belgium and Europe as well as with historic allies in North America.

Riding a rising wave of Western populist distrust of international trade deals, French-speaking Wallonia’s parliament stuck to its refusal to heed a late Monday EU deadline to support the pact.

Its opposition prevents the federal Belgian government from signing the accord, which needs to be backed by all 28 European Union member states.

“It won’t be possible to respect this ultimatum,” Wallonia parliament head Andre Antoine told RTL radio, referring to a late-Monday deadline set by EU president Donald Tusk for the country to say whether it could support the pact.

Paul Magnette, the leader of the Wallonia region, rejected the “ultimatum” as “incompatible” with democratic practice when it was disclosed on Sunday.

Anti-globalisation activists fear CETA is a test model to push through an even more controversial EU-US trade deal called TTIP © AFP/File / John Thys

The stand-off means EU leaders may have to cancel a summit they had scheduled for Thursday in Brussels with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the deal.

The pact, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), would link the EU market of 500 million people, the world’s biggest, with the tenth largest global economy.

A European source, who asked not to be named, said Tusk is due to speak later Monday to Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to see whether he has made enough progress to allow Trudeau’s visit to go ahead.

– ‘Solid legal basis’ –

Tusk is also due to speak to European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker before then briefing Trudeau himself.

The source did not say exactly what time a decision had to be made, nor did Tusk’s office formally announce a deadline.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Antoine said it was important to get the deal right as it could pave the way for future trade pacts with economic powers such as the United States and China.

Walloon chairman Andre Antoine wants more time to study a draft CETA deal which is “massively complex” © Belga/AFP/File / Bruno Fahy

“We must therefore have a solid legal basis,” he said.

Wallonia leaders say more time is needed to study a draft deal which Antoine said is massively complex and covers “300 pages of the treaty, 1,300 pages of appendices.”

Critics especially fault terms supposed to protect international investors which, they say, could allow them to force governments to change laws against the wish of the people.

CETA is opposed by anti-globalisation groups who say it is a test model to push through an even more controversial EU-US trade deal called TTIP, talks on which have also stalled.

Wallonia, a region of 3.5 million people, has support around Europe and from non-government organisations like Greenpeace, which fears the deal will reward “corporate greed” at the expense of hard-won EU health and environmental standards.

Apart from sowing tensions with the European Council and the European Commission which strongly support the deal, Wallonia’s position highlights long-standing divisions between the northern and wealthier Flemish-speaking region of Flanders, which backs CETA and sees its southern, French-speaking left-leaning compatriots as wasteful spendthrifts.

Politicians from Wallonia and Flanders will come face-to-face later Monday to discuss the disputed deal for the first time during a meeting of the country’s regions called by Michel’s government.

Canada has made no secret of its irritation with Belgium and the EU.

Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian trade minister, appeared on the verge of tears Friday after walking out of negotiations with Wallonia leader Magnette and blasted the EU as “incapable” of signing international agreements.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The botched negotiations over the deal strike a further blow to a Europe in turmoil following Britain’s shock Brexit vote in June, sharp divisions over the migration crisis and opposition to austerity medicine imposed on Greece and other debt-hit EU countries.

Click to comment

More on Capital Business

Executive Lifestyle

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 12 – The country’s super wealthy individuals are increasing their holding of bonds, gold and cash, a new report by Knight...

Ask Kirubi

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 9 – Businessman and industrialist Dr. Chris Kirubi has urged members of the public to exercise extreme caution when making any...

Ask Kirubi

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 – Businessman and industrialist Dr. Chris Kirubi is set to own half of Centum Investment Company PLC, following a go-ahead...

Ask Kirubi

It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the whole world by surprise. Although its full impact is yet to be...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – Commercial Banks have been ordered to provide relief to borrowers on their personal loans, with loans eligible from March...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun17 – Kenya’s tea leaves manufacturer Kericho Gold, has been awarded the Superbrands Seal by Superbrands East Africa for their quality variety...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 – As the local telecommunications industry gears up to roll out 5G networks in the country, the Communications Authority of...


NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – Airtel Kenya is offering free internet access for students in order to enable continued learning at home in the...