October 21, 2016
Wallonia says No for the third time
What part of the word "No" do they not understand? Wallonia has said No three times to the Ceta trade deal with Canada. They are really digging their heals in. This is a much more serious issue than many people think. It is not about to go away if you just talk to the guys, or threaten them, or appeal to reason, or the greater good. We think that there is still a chance for the Ceta agreement to come into force, but probably only after a revision of the treaty itself, and thus not under the envisaged schedule.
The European Council has given the Wallonians a deadline until today to allow them to close the matter so that the scheduled October 27 EU/Canada can go ahead, where Ceta would be formally approved. The Wallonian prime minister, Paul Magnette, jumped the gun on the deadline and said last night that Wallonia would not change its mind. There had been some progress in the talks with the European Commission, he said, but not enough. Today, he will meet Canada's trade minister and Canada's chief trade negotiator for the second time to explore whether there is scope for renegotiation. Canada has signalled readiness to compromise further but we don't know the details.
La Libre Belgique reports this morning that one of main obstacles is the role of US companies that are based in Canada, and which might be able to piggy-back on the trade deal to get preferential access to the EU market through Ceta. Le Soir adds thats the other two big problems is the uncertain legal status of the various declarations that have been given, and the role of the arbitration courts. There has been some progress on reciprocity clauses for agriculture, as Ceta allows tariff-free access to Canadian agricultural goods, like maple syrup.
We are struck by the angry comments of Magnette's deputy, whose Christian Democratic party is after all a member of the EPP. Maxine Prevot noted it was not Canada who set the Friday deadline for Wallonia, but the European Council. She notes that there remain serious obstacles in meeting Wallonia's concerns. It was incomprehensible that the Commission is less open to talks on this issue than the Canadians themselves. And then this:
"We hope that the expectations of civil society as expressed by the [Walloon] parliament are finally respected and that democracy is not sacrificed to international finance."