Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Freeland 'Still Hopeful' on Canada-EU Trade; Says 'Ball Is in Europe's Court'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Freeland 'Still Hopeful' on Canada-EU Trade; Says 'Ball Is in Europe's Court'

Article excerpt

Canada-EU trade deal 'isn't dead': Freeland

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OTTAWA - International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland came out swinging against her domestic political opponents Monday as she ratcheted up pressure on European lawmakers to twist the arm of the lone Belgian holdout blocking their free trade deal.

Freeland held firm to the government's political deadline of Thursday, when Canada and the European Union are scheduled to attend a summit in Brussels and formally sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Freeland repeatedly brushed aside the question when asked whether the government would be willing to sign the deal after Thursday.

"Canada's job is done," she said. "Canada is ready to sign CETA, but the ball is in Europe's court."

Opposition from the Belgian region of Wallonia, with a population of just 3.5 million, could kill a deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians. Belgium's constitution gives each of its regions a veto over the actions of its national government.

Freeland shrugged off the Conservatives, who assailed her for walking out Friday on the talks taking place in Brussels, and for pointedly criticizing the EU's ability to land a trade deal during an emotional and personal scrum with reporters afterward.

"This was a tough move by Canada, but it was a decision taken carefully, and upon reflection, it was the right and necessary thing to do," she said.

"To the Conservatives who've criticized walking away, they know it was the right move."

Freeland later brushed back more Conservative attacks in the House of Commons, including from trade critic Gerry Ritz who said the deal was "gift-wrapped and left on the doorstep for the Liberals." He accused Freeland of having a "meltdown" last week in Belgium and even suggested she was in need of "adult supervision. …

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