The European Union has failed to get approval for a trade deal with Canada (CETA) from all 28 member-states, with one of the five regional governments in Belgium rejecting the deal, which would have been the first the EU struck with a country in the G-7.
All the other member countries approved the trade deal, but Belgium’s federal government needed approval from its regional parliament and the French-speaking socialist government in Wallonia refused to endorse it, citing concerns about its impact on employment and consumer safety. It also claimed the deal jeopardized “social and environmental standards and the protection of public services” and objected to non-government arbitration.
The Belgian federal government held a crisis meeting of regional leaders, where Paul Magnette, the minister-president of Wallonia, said his government would not budge. “Every time you try to put an ultimatum it makes a calm debate and a democratic debate impossible,” Magnette told reporters in Brussels. “We don’t need an ultimatum. We will not decide anything under an ultimatum or under pressure.”
An EU-Canada summit was planned for Thursday, where Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was supposed to sign the accord. His trip to Brussels may be delayed if the EU can’t secure Belgium’s support for the deal before then.
The EU and Canada have been negotiating the trade deal for seven years. If the EU is unable to approve it, it will call into question negotiations with Japan and the United States, both of which have been ongoing since 2013, and more broadly the EU’s ability to operate as a cohesive free trade bloc that can enter into trade agreements with other countries and blocs.
Anti-free trade parties have been on the rise across Europe as America’s major party presidential candidates have also embraced anti-free trade rhetoric and policies despite its crucial role in increased prosperity worldwide.