European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker optimistic about trade deal with Canada

October 21, 2016 5:33 pm

President of the European Commission (Photo by AFP)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he is optimistic about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, also known as CETA, between the and .
“I hope we can see an agreed settlement in a few days,” Juncker said in a press conference in the Belgian capital Brussels on Friday.
Juncker said CETA “is the best one we ever concluded and if we will be unable to conclude a trade arrangement with Canada, I don’t see how it would be possible to have trade agreements with other parts of this world.”
Contrary to the remarks by the European Commission chief, the Canadian government said the chances of striking a bargain were slim.

Canada’s Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland. (Photo by AFP)

Canada’s Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “It seems evident for me and for Canada that the is not now capable of having an international accord even with a country that has values as European as Canada.”
CETA requires the unanimous support of all the 28 member states of the European Union.
The deal has been delayed so far due to objections by a Belgian regional government.
The tiny French-speaking Belgian region of Wallonia, with 3.5 million people, has complained that its objections to the deal have not been addressed.
Wallonia says it needs more guarantees to protect its farmers and ’s high labor, environmental and consumer standards. It also fears the agreement will allow huge multinationals based in Canada, and possibly in the future from the United States, to crush small Walloon enterprises and their way of life.
“Difficulties remain,” said Paul Magnette, the president of Wallonia, adding that a key stumbling point was the politically sensitive issue of how multinational corporations could challenge states under the deal.

President of the Belgian region of Wallonia Paul Magnette (Photo by AFP)

“The debate we have here is on what kind of globalization do we want?” Magnette told reporters. “The world will get globalized, that is just the way it is. It is an open world (and) that is a good thing. There is nothing worse than borders. But how will this globalization be done? With strong rules or weak rules? Will it protect public freedoms or will multinationals rule the law?”
“I plead that, in an amicable way, we jointly postpone the EU-Canada summit and that we give ourselves time,” he said.
Magnette added that the talks would continue, but said any deal might not be ready in time for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Brussels next Thursday.
A European Commission source, whose name was not mentioned in reports, said, “Talks that started early this morning with the regional government of Wallonia have come to a halt… [However,] the European Commission doesn’t consider that this is the end of the process paving the way for the signature of the trade deal reached between the European union and Canada.”
All EU leaders are in favor of CETA and have warned that failure to clinch the deal could ruin the credibility of the union as a trade partner and make it more difficult to strike such agreements with other global allies including the United States and Japan.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country is the EU’s biggest economy, said she was also optimistic about striking the deal.
“We now have to deal with the national questions, and I don’t find that so dramatic,” she said.
Proponents of CETA say it would benefit trade and at the same time preserve the EU’s rules and regulations on social, environmental and labor issues. Opponents say the deal would benefit the rich.
A similar agreement is also being negotiated between the EU and the United States, but it has met with far more opposition than CETA. Talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are not expected to take place until after the upcoming presidential election in the United States.
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