- Title: Belgian internal feud blocks EU-Canada trade deal
- Date: 24th October 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (OCTOBER 24, 2016) (REUTERS) ****WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** EXTERIOR OF OFFICE OF BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER, CHARLES MICHEL PROTESTER, MICHEL CERMAK, FROM PLATFORM "STOP-TTIP" HOLDING ANTI-TTIP (TRANSATLANTIC TRADE AND INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP) AND ANTI-CETA (COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC TRADE AGREEMENT) SIGN JOURNALISTS APPROACHING BELGIAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HEADS PREMIER OF WALLONIA REGION, PAUL MAGNETTE, TALKING TO JOURNALISTS, ENTERING MICHEL'S OFFICE, SECURITY BLOCKING ENTRANCE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT PREMIER, GEERT BOURGEOIS, ARRIVING JOURNALISTS AND SECURITY OUTSIDE ENTRANCE TO MICHEL'S OFFICE CERMAK SPEAKING TO JOURNALISTS AND BEING LED AWAY BY POLICE (SOUNDBITE) (French) PREMIER OF WALLONIA REGION, PAUL MAGNETTE, SAYING: "The President of the European Council, Mr. (Donald) Tusk wants, according to him, a response of 'yes' or 'no' today. He therefore asked us to say right away 'yes' or 'no'. We made it clear we were not in a position to say 'yes' in the current circumstances, but we remain ready to discuss but there is clearly no will to discuss, which is a shame." MAGNETTE LEAVING AS JOURNALISTS CHASE AFTER HIM MICHEL ARRIVING FOR NEWS BRIEFING WITH BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, DIDIER REYNDERS (SOUNDBITE) (French) BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER, CHARLES MICHEL, SAYING: "The Walloon government, the Brussels government, the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, and the COCOF (French Community Commission), have responded negatively, and have therefore not given the mandate to sign CETA. As a consequence, I will, as it was agreed, this afternoon, at the end of the afternoon, once again call Donald Tusk so as to officially inform him of this decision which was found in the council meeting." NEWS BRIEFING IN PROGRESS (SOUNDBITE) (French) BELGIAN PRIME MINISTER, CHARLES MICHEL, SAYING: "It is not for Belgium to decide whether the summit (with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) takes place or not. They asked us to give a clear response today, I made sure we could give a clear response, the clear response is no. I will therefore communicate this clear response this afternoon to Donald Tusk. And I imagine Donald Tusk, and perhaps other European officials, will have probably discussed this with Canada in the coming hours. But it's not up to Belgium to decide the consequences, this decision is really in the hands of the European Union and Canada." NEWS BRIEFING ENDING
- Embargoed: 8th November 2016 13:52
- Keywords: Belgium Michel Wallonia Canada EU Magnette Bourgeois
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Topics: Government/Politics,International Trade
- Reuters ID: LVA00155D653B
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The European Union's hopes of signing a landmark free trade deal with Canada this week appeared to evaporate on Monday (October 24) as the Belgian federal government failed to win the consent of French-speaking regional authorities.
European Council President Donald Tusk had given Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel until Monday, three days before the planned signing, to resolve the impasse. But a meeting Michel hosted with leaders of the five sub-federal authorities whose permission he needs to go ahead ended in stalemate.
Tusk is now expected to contact Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and call off an EU-Canada summit that was scheduled for Thursday in Brussels, although all sides insist that the CETA pact, seven years in the making, remains in everyone's interest.
"The President of the European Council, Mr. (Donald) Tusk wants, according to him, a response of 'yes' or 'no' today. He therefore asked us to say right away 'yes' or 'no'. We made it clear we were not in a position to say 'yes' in the current circumstances, but we remain ready to discuss but there is clearly no will to discuss, which is a shame," Paul Magnette, the premier of the Wallonia region, told reporters as he emerged from the meeting.
He said the main problems remained not with Ottawa, which has already agreed to modifications in the deal, but with the EU authorities.
Other Socialist-led regions, including bilingual capital Brussels, are ranged behind the Walloons, while Dutch- and German-speakers back Michel's liberal-led federal coalition.
Flanders premier Geert Bourgeois said it was a "real shame" the agreement had been rejected after the meeting at Michel's residence which lasted less than an hour.
Michel said it was too early to say CETA was dead and that the Walloons and he were still open to dialogue but that he must inform Tusk that Belgium was not in a position to consent now to a deal that all 27 other EU member states are ready to support.
"The Walloon government, the Brussels government, the Federation Wallonia-Brussels, and the COCOF (French Community Commission), have responded negatively, and have therefore not given the mandate to sign CETA. As a consequence I will, as it was agreed, this afternoon, at the end of the afternoon, once again call Donald Tusk so as to officially inform him of this decision which was found in the counsel meeting," Michel told reporters in Brussels.
EU negotiators have stressed that they are willing to keep talking with the Walloons -- Canada's trade minister left in frustration after talks in the regional capital Namur on Friday (October 21) and said the problems were now internal ones for the Europeans.
The only deadline, EU officials emphasised, was caused by the need to help Trudeau schedule his week and that there had been no attempt to push Magnette by fixing an ultimatum.
CETA supporters say it would increase trade between the partners by 20 percent and boost the EU economy by 12 billion euros ($13 billion) a year and Canada's by C$12 billion (US $9 billion).
Walloons have concerns about the threat of surging pork and beef imports from Canada and an independent court system to settle disputes between states and foreign investors, which critics say allows multinationals to dictate public policy.
Many EU leaders suspect the local government in Namur is using its devolved powers to play domestic politics.
If CETA fails, the EU's hopes of completing similar deals with the United States or Japan would be in tatters, undermining a bloc already battered by Britain's vote to leave it and disputes over Europe's migration crisis.
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