CETA: Canada welcomes the Belgian agreement but remains cautious
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    CETA: Canada welcomes the Belgian agreement but remains cautious

    After Belgium’s agreement to CETA protracted ratification period starts. The Canadian government welcomed on Thursday the agreement between the Belgian parliaments on the free trade agreement between the European Union and Canada (CETA), but remained cautious about next steps before possible ratification.

    “It’s important for people to appreciate that while today, this morning, we absolutely had a positive development, there are still many steps to be taken,”  the Canadian Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland told journalists in Ottawa.

    “I want to be sure that Canadians appreciate that even after signing, the process will not yet be complete. As with all trade agreements, the next step will be ratification and with CETA, that will mean a vote in the European Parliament if we get past signing,” she said.

    “Canada is ready to sign the agreement when Europe will be ready,” she added.

    The Belgian common position could enable the European Union (EU) to sign the free trade agreement (CETA), despite an uncertain schedule. A planned summit yesterday (27 October) between EU and Canada was cancelled because of the internal negotiations in Belgium. No new date for the summit has been set yet.

    Once signed by the EU and Canada, the treaty will be applied partially and temporarily, until it is ratified by all the parliaments of Europe, which can take years.

    The Belgian declaration, of which the French news agency AFP obtained a copy, reaffirms that the various entities of Belgium will retain a say during ratification period, including as regards agriculture.

    The arbitration mechanism (ICS) that would be applied in case of a conflict between a multinational company and a state would be implemented once the treaty is ratified by all the European Parliaments, according to the statement.

    In addition, any Belgian Parliament may inform the federal government during the interim period about “its final and permanent decision” not to ratify the CETA, the statement also said.

    Asked to comment on this provision, the Canadian minister recalled that “in terms of jurisdictional issues, (it is) the EU that has decided provisionally. That’s all I have to say in this regard.”

    Christopher Vincent (Source: Belga)