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EU-Canada Trade Deal Moves Closer to Final Approval

FILE - Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel holds a press conference on the second day of the EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2016.
FILE - Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel holds a press conference on the second day of the EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 21, 2016.

Belgian politicians agreed to a deal Thursday to support a free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada after overcoming opposition from one region in Belgium, paving the way for the signing of a landmark deal within days.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters the agreement was reached after the Socialist-controlled, French-speaking region of Wallonia decided to join Belgium's other regional parliaments and give its approval.

Wallonia agreed to support the trans-Atlantic trade deal after guarantees were provided for farmers and on a corporate dispute settlement system. The revised deal will go through Belgium's regional legislatures by Friday night.

The agreement is a big relief to EU leaders, who have been negotiating the pact with Canada for seven years

What happens next ?

All 28 EU members must sign off on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement for it to take effect. The members are expected to formally approve the agreement in coming days.

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 previously said the agreement would undermine labor and environment and consumer standards. Wallonia was also concerned the local meat industry would be hurt by a surge in Canadian pork and beef imports.

Wallonia leader Paul Magnette said Thursday the deal was worth fighting for and would set a strong precedent for other trade negotiations between Europe and other trading partners like the U.S. or Japan.

"Wallonia is extremely happy that it's demands were heard. We always fought for treaties that strengthen social, environmental norms and protect public services," Magnette said.

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 perceived benefits of free trade.