Belgian opposition puts progress of EU-Canada trade deal at risk

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Opposition from a Belgian region has raised concerns about the further progress of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada.

The planned free trade agreement between the EU and Canada could be in jeopardy after a Belgian region voted to reject the deal.

French-speaking Wallonia's local parliament has voted to reject the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) by a 46-14 margin due to concerns that the farming and industrial sectors will be damaged by exposure to cheaper imports from Canada.

Paul Magnette, Wallonia's regional leader, said he would "not give the full powers to the federal government" to push ahead with the deal. Since Belgium's constitution gives its three regional governments - including Wallonia - a potential veto over the deal, this could potentially jeopardize the future progression of CETA.

EU trade ministers are meeting this week to discuss the CETA deal further, with the majority of key players in agreement that they wish for the deal to proceed. If unanimous support can be achieved, then the agreement could be signed before the end of the month.

Pierre Pettigrew, a special envoy from the Canadian government, has travelled to Wallonia to meet with Mr Magnette in the hope of addressing some of the problems that are preventing the region from signing off on CETA.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said: "We've always known it's going to require hard work right to the very end. But I'm confident that there are so many strong European countries, like France as we saw, Germany is fully on board, and others, that this deal is going to make it through."

The proposed deal would be one of the biggest in the history of both the EU and Canada, eliminating around 99 per cent of the customs duties and other administrative obstacles between the regions in order to create new business opportunities.

A €12 billion increase in GDP for Europe is expected as a result, while Canada is forecasting an annual economic boost of C$12 billion (€8.3 billion).