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EU nations approve trade deal with Canada

The deal had remained in limbo as the parliament of the Belgian region of Wallonia continued to block the deal over concerns about its potential damage to local interests. Photograph: (AFP)

Brussels, Belgium Oct 29, 2016, 12.16 AM (IST)

In a  landmark agreement on Friday, European Union nations approved a free-trade deal with Canada clearing the way for its signing after years of negotiations.

European Union (EU) president Donald Tusk tweeted "Missions accomplished!" He also said that the deal will be signed on Sunday at a summit in Brussels.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted after the deal was announced.

In a phone call with Tusk, he hailed the deal as "a good sign in an uncertain world", an EU source said, news agency AFP reported.

Trudeau also thanked Canada's trade minister Chrystia Freeland for "her skill and dedication".

 


The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) deal will remove 99 per cent of customs duties between the two sides, linking the two economies.

The deal linking the single EU market of 500 million people and the world's 10th largest economy will be signed at summit on Sunday.

Tusk's spokesman Preban Aamann wrote on Twitter that Sunday's signing summit will begin at 0930 GMT, with the signing due at 1100 GMT.

The deal which has been in talks for more than seven years now had remained in limbo in the past few days as the parliament of the Belgian region of Wallonia continued to block the deal over concerns about its potential damage to local interests.

The deal requires the approval of all 28 EU member states. In some cases, as in Belgium, the regional governments also had to endorse the deal. Therefore, the accord was hanging on Wallonia's agreement.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel held marathon talks in a bid to win the holdout regions over, finally announcing Thursday that the two sides had reached a deal, reported AFP.

Once signed, the pact will go into effect on a provisional basis, pending full member state ratification -- a process that could take years.

Head of the southern French-speaking Paul Magnette, who had fought for the region's farming interests, said he walked away with assurances from the federal government of strengthened social and environmental protection. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, however, said talks with Wallonia "did not change a comma" in the deal.

Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, which currently holds the EU presidency, hailed the delayed approval of the deal as "a milestone in the EU's trade policy".

"It has the potential to set the way forward for future trade deals," he said, AFP reported.

An even bigger and more controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal with the United States is dependent on CETA's outcome

In a speech to the parliament, Magnette warned that Wallonia would never accept a trade treaty that does not have the same guarantees as those in the new CETA.

"From now on, we can draw the lesson: with CETA improved, TTIP is dead and buried", AFP reported Magette as saying.

(With inputs from AFP)

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