Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Leaked Draft Statement Aimed at Canada-EU Free Trade Critics: Sources

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Leaked Draft Statement Aimed at Canada-EU Free Trade Critics: Sources

Article excerpt

Leak aimed at Canada-EU critics: sources

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OTTAWA - A joint statement on the free trade deal between Canada and the European Union is aimed at mollifying its opponents, sources say -- including restive Walloons in Belgium who are threatening to block the agreement.

The leaked draft of the five-page summary, now widely circulated, is supposed to accompany the transatlantic deal's final signing later this month in Brussels.

Stamped "Final Draft," the statement addresses contentious portions of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement -- including the investor-state dispute resolution mechanism -- that were rewritten to save the deal from being rejected in Germany and France.

Now, opposition to the deal is festering among Belgium's French-speaking Walloons, the French-speaking inhabitants of one of three regions of the country that must ultimately approve the deal.

A senior European diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Canadian Press that the threat posed by the Walloons is the greatest obstacle to getting CETA done.

The diplomat, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, says the statement was written in a way that explains the deal in reassuring, easy-to-read terms.

"We hope that this could help the Belgian government to convince its parliament that the deal is really a good one and the concerns are not really founded," the diplomat said, adding that it was also aimed broadly at politicians and members of civil society who oppose the deal.

"It covers a wide range of issues and it tries to put in simple words what is already in the agreement -- but just to clarify."

EU trade ministers are to meet next week and their approval of the deal is needed for a planned Canada-EU summit to take place later in the month where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his EU counterparts are expected to sign the deal.

"We are in active conversation and there is no final joint declaration at this time," said Alex Lawrence, spokesman International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, said of the five-page addition. …

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