Justin Trudeau remains 'confident' trade deal with European Union will pass

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains confident a landmark trade deal with the European Union will pass, even after a Belgian region voted Friday to block the agreement.

Belgian region of Wallonia won't back agreement due to concerns it will hurt farmers, industry

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a campaign event for Liberal party byelection candidate Stan Sakamoto in Medicine Hat, Alta., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains confident a landmark trade deal with the European Union will pass, even after a Belgian region voted Friday to block the agreement.

Speaking at a byelection campaign event in Medicine Hat, Alta., Trudeau said the Liberals have worked hard to overcome "tremendous" opposition in Europe and renegotiate an agreement that protects the best interests of citizens, labour rights and the environment.

"We've always known it's going to require hard work right to the very end," he said. "But I'm confident that there are so many strong European countries, like France as we saw yesterday, Germany is fully on board, and others, that this deal is going to make it through."

Paul Magnette, the leader of the region of Wallonia, said Friday he would "not give the full powers to the federal government" to back the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) at an EU meeting Tuesday, where the 28 member states have to decide on full approval of the agreement.

Harmed by cheap imports?

Wallonia, a francophone region of 3.5 million people in the south of Belgium, has concerns the deal would harm farming and industrial sectors that would have to compete with cheaper imports from Canada.

Magnette said "the guarantees are insufficient," and that labour, environmental and legal standards needed to be improved before such a deal could be approved.

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But Trudeau called it "one of the most progressive trade deals ever proposed."

'New standard'

"It's actually a new standard for the kinds of trade deals that demonstrates that it's good for ordinary citizens and small business, not just big companies and the countries' bottom lines," he said.

Yesterday, Trudeau warned that not passing the deal would send a negative message around the globe.

"In this post-Brexit situation where there are a great many questions about Europe's usefulness, if Europe cannot manage to sign this agreement, then that sends a very clear message not just to Europe, but to the whole world, that Europe is choosing a path that is not productive for its citizens or the world. And that would be a shame."

Canada's trade envoy, Pierre Pettigrew, is meeting with Magnette today.‎

Last weekend, David Lametti, the parliamentary Secretary to Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, met in Canada with a delegation of legislators from the Wallonia Parliament. He also travelled directly to Wallonia to address its parliamentary commission on European affairs and to meet with regional leaders yesterday, said Freeland's spokesman Alex Lawrence.

With files from Janyce McGregor


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