Ceta: EU and Canada to sign long-delayed free trade deal

Anti-Ceta and TTIP demonstration outside European Commission HQ in Brussels - 27 OctoberImage copyright

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Protests have dogged the trade talks throughout

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is finally on his way to Belgium to sign a long-delayed landmark trade deal with the European Union.

He will attend a summit in Brussels where a signing ceremony planned for Thursday was cancelled after a Belgian region vetoed the agreement.

All 28 EU states approved the deal on Friday when consensus was reached.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as Ceta, required all EU member states to endorse it.

The deal removes 99% of tariffs – and officials hope it will generate an increase in trade worth $12bn (€10.9bn; £9.8bn) a year.

The deal was due to be signed at 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT), but was postponed for an hour after Mr Trudeau’s plane had to turn back to Ottawa airport after experiencing “mechanical issues” shortly after take-off.

Mr Trudeau is understood now to be on his way to Brussels again.

Template for Brexit? By Damian Grammaticas, BBC Europe correspondent

This is the summit many feared might never happen.

The EU says its trade deal with Canada is the most significant and ambitious one it has ever signed. It took seven years to negotiate. The EU and Canada say it’ll set the gold-standard for future trade deals.

It may be the closest thing there is to a template for a UK Brexit deal.

The lessons appear to be that ambitious trade agreements take time. Even with goodwill on both sides the twists and turns can go on for years, and the UK should beware EU countries and regions are increasingly willing to veto such deals if they feel they go against their own interests, or it’s politically expedient to do so.

Seven years of negotiations were left hanging in the balance after Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia demanded stronger safeguards on labour, environmental and consumer standards.

It also wanted more protection for Walloon farmers, who would face new competition from Canadian imports.

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Belgium finally signed the deal on Saturday

On Thursday, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said that after marathon talks they had agreed on an addendum to the deal which addressed regional concerns.

Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, which currently holds the EU presidency, said the final approval of the deal was “a milestone in the EU’s trade policy”.


The number of tariffs between the EU and Canada that would be eliminated

€500 million

The estimated amount that EU exporters would save in duties annually

  • 3.6m The population of Wallonia

  • 36.3m The population of Canada

  • 508m The population of the EU

Complications over the Ceta agreement had raised fresh concerns about future UK negotiations with the EU on a Brexit trade deal.

Mr Tusk had warned that the delays and wrangling were further damaging EU credibility following Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

Ceta: EU and Canada to sign long-delayed free trade deal

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