The minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, waved a red flag in the direction of regional governments within Belgium refusing to sign the free trade treaty with Canada, known as CETA. He is waiting to see what the attitude of ministers of regional parties will be during a meeting planned for Monday.
He indicated this to the House of Representatives, mentioning in passing that it falls to the various executives to sign this and not individual parliaments.
The Head of Diplomacy is says he is concerned that Belgium does not put itself “in a position of complete isolation in Europe.”
“If we don’t sign up with Canada, who else is left that we can possibly sign up with” demanded Mr Reynders, “when Canada is one of the countries in the world whose norms align most closely to our own?”
In 2009 and 2011, the federal government, in which the PS and the Humanist Christian Democrats were involved, approved the mandates to negotiate CETA.
Mr Reynders is clear that the result of talks will go much further than was then anticipated at that time.
He said, “CETA is the best guarantee we have of not having an ill-drafted agreement.”
He almost repeated himself saying, “CETA, is the best guarantee of not having the ill-drafted TTIP (this is the agreement being negotiated with the U.S., editor’s note).”
The Liberal Minister said that he is all the more surprised by the attitude of French-speaking entities regarding CETA, which is supported throughout Europe by Christian Democrat and Socialist governments.
Like Ecolo and supported by the Flemish Socialists, the PS zeroed in on its hostility to CETA and its fears for social and environmental norms within Belgium, and the capacity of SMEs to hold their own against SMEs across the Atlantic.
“It is all well and good, but once the deal is done it will be too late,” Gwenaëlle Grovonius (from the PS) cautioned.
The atmosphere was tense in the Chamber between the PS and the MR.
In the majority, the Open Vld and the Flemish Christian Democrats condemned the attitude of French-speaking parties.
Tim Vandeput (from Open Vld) said, “After sabotaging the alliance between Bpost and Post NL, the Socialists are clearly taking the option which will rot and sabotage our economy.”