EU-Canada trade deal in crisis [updated]
Wallonia has ended, for the moment, hopes of the long-awaited free trade agreement between the European Union & Canada. Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland was fairly explosive as she left Walloon government’s offices yesterday :
It seems obvious that the EU is now not capable of having an international agreement, even with a country that shares European values such as Canada, even with a country that is so kind and patient.
Wallonia is one of Belgium’s devolved regions, with a population of just 3.5 million people.
The EU (currently) requires unanimity from all 28 member states to approve trade deals. Belgium therefore needs the unanimous approval of it’s devolved regions. This of course has impacts for the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
truly sad talks have been halted
Cecilia Malmström EU trade commissioner.
Wallonia has expressed concerns about the impact of the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) citing impacts on pork & beef imports from Canada. Brexit24 wonders just how many pork & beef farmers there can be a region with 3.5 million citizens to warrant this stance. It transpires that Canada doesn’t even trade with Wallonia!
Martin Schulz has arranged a meeting with Canada’s trade minister, Chrystia Freeland today and will later meet Paul Magnette, Minister-President of the region.
Impacts for the European Union
Many EU leaders suspect that the Walloon government may be playing to it’s domestic audience by grand-standing the CETA collapse. Whatever else it’s put Wallonia on the political map.
If we can’t make it with Canada, I don’t think we can make it with the UK
Brexit24 thinks this sounds a little like the Alicia Keys song, ‘New York’ : [Wallonia] “..if you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere.”
The collapse of the talks in Namur also raise the spectre of the credibility of the European Union in trade negotiations. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau was slated to fly into Brussels next week to sign-off what would have been seen as a success economically for the EU.
Elsewhere, the fear will be that future trade deals can also be derailed by local populist politicians seeking to ‘hog’ the limelight for their pork farmers.
Britain watches from the sidelines.
The UK will be keeping more than a watchful eye on events in Namur this weekend. If the CETA deal gets signed promptly, it will be a lot easier for Liam Fox to approach the Canadians to merely ‘Copy+Paste’ the same deal as the EU has with the United Kingdom in the future. If no deal is done, Fox will have get in the queue behind the Europeans.
The issues that we have been discussing now in relation to Ceta is not something that brought to mind the discussions with Great Britain
Mrs May’s government will also be aghast at the new radicalization of regions like Wallonia that could also potentially de-rail a UK Brexit both before and after the deal goes to the European Parliament.
Updated 13:45 CET.
In my eyes, there are no problems that cannot be resolved
Following Martin Schulz’s (separate) meetings with Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s trade minister & Paul Magnette, Minister-President of Wallonia, Saturday.
Freeland seemed much more upbeat, saying that Canada was now ready to sign the agreement and that the ball was now very much back in Europe’s court.
We have done our job. We have finished negotiating a very good agreement. Now the ball is in Europe’s court.
Paul Magnette also confirmed a change of mood music following his meeting, but that Schulz hadn’t yet ‘brought home the bacon’. Don’t be surprised to read in the coming weeks that Wallonia is suddenly the lucky recipient of some new investment drive from Europe. An Opera House, or perhaps a high-speed train.
We have still some little difficulties among Europeans.
We won’t hide that so we still have to work and discuss for a certain amount of time.
Freeland herself is flying back to Canada this afternoon. Martin Schulz will have to do the required arm-twisting/pork-barrelling in Wallonia if the CETA is to be signed, as planned, next Friday.
I hope that I can return in the next days with my prime minister to sign the treaty as planned.
Brexit24 assumes that a sigh of relief is being exhaled from Brussels to Downing Street this afternoon. But the soap opera that is CETA should be a warning for Theresa May that getting 27 European Union members to agree on anything is not as simple as it sounds. Brexit24 thinks that at the very least, the Greeks will try to sabotage any deal to make a political point (and garner some additional ‘strategic’ funds) before the European Parliament can ratify any eventual Brexit deal.