The EU’s trade deal with Canada was yesterday pulled back from the brink after Belgian regional leaders dropped their objections to the country’s government signing the pact in an eleventh-hour rescue.
The agreement came just hours after Justin Trudeau, Canada’s premier, cancelled a trip to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement in Brussels.
MPs in the French-speaking region of Wallonia, the Brussels region and the country’s tiny German-speaking region have been asked to confirm their approval of the Ceta treaty by midnight tonight.
Charles Michel, Belgium’s prime minister, said the regional parliaments would have “the last word” on a deal that would retain Belgium’s “credibility on the international stage”.
Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said he would only contact Mr Trudeau “once all procedures are finalised” for the EU to sign Ceta.
欧洲理事会(European Council)主席唐纳德.图斯克(Donald Tusk)表示，“只有当所有程序都已完成”，欧盟可以签署CETA之后，他才会联系特鲁多。
There has been deep frustration among Ceta’s supporters at the failure of the Belgian regional leaders to approve a deal that the government in Brussels and those of 27 other member states had agreed to sign.
Mr Tusk has warned that a collapse of Ceta would have “obvious consequences” for Europe’s global position.
The Ceta affair has been deeply embarrassing for EU leaders, who had hoped the deal would prepare the ground for the even bigger Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pact with the US. Instead the affair has raised questions over the ability of the EU to conclude complex deals that require the support of all the parliaments in the bloc.
欧盟领导人曾希望该协议将为与美国达成更大的《跨大西洋贸易与投资伙伴关系协定》(Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)做一些铺垫，因此他们对CETA遭遇的波折深感尴尬。与他们的初衷相反，这一波折令人质疑：欧盟有没有能力敲定那些需要得到成员国所有议会支持的复杂交易？
Belgium’s government strongly supports the deal but under the federal structure it cannot sign without regional approval. The national parliament backed Ceta as did the parliament in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders.
The parties came close to a deal on Wednesday but talks broke up — resulting in the cancellation of an EU-Canada summit. Before he cancelled his visit, Mr Trudeau said the logjam could still be broken. “We are confident that in the coming days we will see a positive outcome for this historic deal.”
Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s trade minister, said the country was ready to sign this important agreement “when Europe is ready”.