Transatlantic free trade treaties: Charles Michel and Justin Trudeau spoke during the night
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    Transatlantic free trade treaties: Charles Michel and Justin Trudeau spoke during the night

    © Belga
    Walonia's signature of the CETA still hangs in the balance.
    © Belga

    The Belgian and Canadian Prime Ministers, Charles Michel and Justin Trudeau had a telephone call on Friday morning around 3.30 a.m. CET, to discuss recent developments in the issue of the free trade agreement. The agreement is between the EU and Canada (the CETA – Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Wallonia is still refusing to sign this.

    During yesterday evening (Thursday), the Belgian Prime Minister had been invited to explain the situation to his European colleagues, during the traditional dinner at the summit in Brussels, where heads of state and government of the 28 member states are currently meeting.

    These explanations, which were not anticipated as part of the initial agenda, were drawn up shortly after the British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s Brexit speech.

    Sources close to the Prime Minister stated this.

    European leaders are “appalled” by the Walloon government’s resistance.

    Wallonia is still persisting with its refusal to delegate full powers to federal level to sign the commercial agreement with Canada.

    This is owing to a series of problems, which it flags up in the text.

    The European Commission’s proposals submitted yesterday (Thursday) around 2 p.m. to the Walloon Minister-President, Paul Magnette, are still not satisfactory the latter considered.

    European leaders followed the developments very closely during their meeting, by exhibiting “great concern” as several consider that CETA would be excellent for Europe.

    There is a perception that the Canadians also feel “somewhat more than just irritated” when faced with the Walloon attitude, sources close to the Prime Minister say.

    Charles Michel is in permanent contact with the European Commission and in very close contact with Paul Magnette, who was due to meet the Canadian International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, at 8.30 a.m. CET, and whilst there the European Commission.

    The heads of state and government of the European 28 still wish to conclude the agreement before the end of the summit on Friday afternoon.

    Lars Andersen
    The Brussels Times