Belgians expected to give way on EU-Canada deal

Hopes that scheduled summit between the two blocs can go ahead

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders arriving at an emergency meeting on Ceta in Brussels. Photograph: AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand

Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders arriving at an emergency meeting on Ceta in Brussels. Photograph: AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand

 

Belgian politicians failed to break their deadlock over the troubled EU-Canada trade deal agreement Wednesday night, but agreed to resume talks today in a sign they may be nearing a consensus that would keep the deal alive before a scheduled summit between the two blocs.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), seven years in the making, is backed by all 27 other EU governments but rejected by the French-speaking south of Belgium, meaning Belgium as a whole cannot sign it.

Prime minister Charles Michel worked with the heads of Belgium’s regions and linguistic communities to produce a common text to allay concerns about agricultural imports and a dispute settlement system that critics say could be abused by multinationals to dictate public policy.

Joint meeting

The resumption of talks is set for 8am Thursday. Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said a meeting of ambassadors from other EU countries was set for an hour later. “We will see if it is possible to go to that meeting with a joint Belgian position,” he said.

Earlier in the day European Council president Donald Tusk refused to close the door on an agreement.

‘Determination’

European Parliament

Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the European Commission, also expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached, allowing the long-planned summit to go ahead. With the EU’s reputation as a credible trade partner on the line, there was hope across member states that a compromise would be reached

Ten days after the Wallonian parliament blocked the deal, the region’s main concerns continue to focus on a controversial investor court which would allow corporates to sue governments, and fears about the impact of Ceta on the region’s agricultural industry.

Ireland, along with the 26 other member states, has backed the provisional application of the deal which imposes a quota on agricultural products that are imported into the EU.

It is understood farm organisations such as the IFA were engaged in the negotiations in the early stages of the talks and are happy with the export opportunities promised by the deal.

The tariffs

However, anti-trade campaigners believe the agreement will have a negative effect on environmental and consumer standards.

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly called on Belgium to back the deal.– (Additional reporting Reuters)