Belgium’s Regions Set to Enable EU to Approve Canada Trade Pact

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union’s trade deal with Canada took another step forward on Friday as Belgium’s French-speaking regional parliaments met to approve the agreement.

Government leaders of Wallonia, the Brussels Capital Region and the French-speaking Community wanted to give their lawmakers the final say in authorizing Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders to sign the pact on behalf of Belgium. The Walloon parliament in Namur was the first of four assemblies to give formal consent before a scheduled endorsement by the EU as a whole at midnight. That in turn will enable EU President Donald Tusk to set a new date for a summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the pact.

Belgium’s Regions Set to Enable EU to Approve Canada Trade Pact

Paul Magnette attends Walloon Parliament on Oct. 28.

Photographer: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Belgium’s national and regional governments “are now on the same line,” Paul Magnette, the leader of the Walloon government who spearheaded opposition to the pact, told France’s Europe 1 radio on Friday. The EU’s other 27 countries have not objected to the deal.

Wallonia, which accounts for less than 1 percent of the EU’s population, temporarily blocked the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, saying it needed more time to negotiate amid concerns that the deal would impact consumer standards and employment.

The accord would end 98 percent of tariffs on goods traded from the outset and 99 percent after seven years. Each side would dismantle all industrial tariffs and more than 90 percent of agricultural duties. Markets for services and public procurement would also be opened.