European Union and Canadian leaders say they are still hopeful their trans-Atlantic free trade deal will be approved despite opposition from one small region in Belgium.
All 28 EU members must sign off on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement for it to take effect. Belgium, the only outstanding country, needs the support of its five regional parliaments, one of which, Wallonia, is the lone holdout.
Despite weeks of talks, Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel said he couldn’t persuade the Socialist-controlled, French-speaking region of Wallonia to give its approval.
European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday on Twitter that there’s still time to reach a deal ahead of the scheduled joint summit Thursday.
Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “We're ready to sign the agreement on October 27 as planned. It’s now up to the Europeans to be ready to sign on the 27th, as well.”
The collapse of the deal would be yet another negative signal to world leaders trying to open trade borders. Like others around the world, Wallonia politicians say the agreement would undermine labor, environment and consumer standards, and the local meat industry is worried about a surge in Canadian pork and beef imports.
Similar fears have threatened to derail the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which has been agreed to but not yet ratified by the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada one of the worst deals ever signed, says he would never back the TPP. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who initially supported TPP, said she opposed it once she learned the full terms of the deal.
The failure of the Canadian-European trade deal would also complicate similar negotiations with the U.S., Japan and other countries as a wave of populist parties around the world challenges the benefits of free trade.