Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada-European Trade Envoy Pierre Pettigrew Optimistic CETA Will Be Approved

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada-European Trade Envoy Pierre Pettigrew Optimistic CETA Will Be Approved

Article excerpt

Canada trade envoy hopeful about CETA

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MONTREAL - Canada's European trade envoy says he's hopeful a landmark trade agreement with the European Union will be approved later this week, despite snags that have stalled a critical vote on the deal.

Pierre Pettigrew expressed his optimism after speaking to the Montreal Board of Trade on Tuesday while overseas, EU officials took pains to save a pact that has been years in the making.

The fate of the so-called Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) remains unclear because of opposition from Wallonia. The francophone southern region in Belgium has expressed concerns the deal could erode labour, environmental and consumer regulations.

Thanks to Belgium's complex political system, Wallonia has the power to force the country's government to withhold its support for the trade deal, which was already backed by the rest of the EU's 28 member nations.

Canada has done everything it could to address any concerns within the EU, and now the ball is in its court, said Pettigrew, who last week was dispatched to meet with Wallonia Minister President Paul Magnette.

"We have worked very hard in the last few months to bring reassurances that we in Canada share those same progressive views," Pettigrew said.

EU nations were scheduled to vote on the deal Tuesday, but that was delayed after Magnette raised objections, saying he needs a few more days.

Pettigrew said the vote could happen as early as Thursday, when EU leaders kick off a two-day summit.

Wallonia, with a population of 3.5 million, wants more guarantees to protect its farmers and Europe's labour, environmental and consumer standards. It also fears the agreement will allow huge multinationals -- first from Canada, later from the United States, if a similar deal with Washington follows -- that would crush small Walloon enterprises and their way of life. …

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