rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Wallonia holds firm against CETA, Trudeau sets Monday as deadline to resolve impasse

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

PMO/Adam Scotti

Despite an intervention by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, Walloon's Minister-President Paul Magnette is holding firm on his refusal to agree to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signing ceremony on Thursday. 

"I think it's worth taking a little more time," Magnette said. The government of Wallonia region, a region that includes 3.5 million people in Belgium, is blocking the massive trade deal in hopes to get more time.

The European Union has reportedly given Belgium until late Monday to overcome opposition to the trade deal, saying if there is no resolution by that date it will cancel the scheduled summit for Thursday.

Walloon parliament president Andre Antoine said that an end-of-year deadline would be more reasonable and that an agreement was not possible Monday, Reuters reported. 

Canadian trade minister Chrystia Freeland was in Brussels last weekend to meet with Schulz, but has now returned to Canada saying that she hopes to be back in Brussels with Trudeau on Thursday for the signing of CETA. But that seems unlikely given the depth of Wallonia's concerns about the deal.

"Politicians in Wallonia argue the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies,” The Associated Press reported.

BNN reported, "Walloons have concerns about the threat of surging pork and beef imports from Canada and an independent court system to settle disputes between states and foreign investors, which critics fear hands power to multinationals. Once the core of the Belgian economy, Wallonia has seen coalmines shut and steel jobs disappear and distrusts globalization. Just last month, Caterpillar announced plans to close a plant there, cutting some 2,000 jobs."

David Kleimann, a researcher at the European University Institute, has told the CBC that the fate of Wallonia's vocal and powerful farmers has been central to the region's trade objections.

"The Walloons are having trouble [understanding] the investment protection provisions of the treaty, as well as the validity [of the] EU ban [on] hormone-treated beef," Kleimann said.

And from Belgium, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey tells us that beyond these issues, Wallonia is also concerned about the deal's negative list on services, meaning it applies to every service unless otherwise stated thus raising concerns about privatization and the ability to remunicipalize a public service.

They are also concerned about the lack of protection from a flood of dairy imports, the lack of Belgian geographic indicators (that protect products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography), and they say that the side declaration to the deal that was intended to assuage concerns is not legally binding.

The Council of Canadians celebrates European opposition to CETA.

We have been highlighting that not only does Wallonia have the constitutional right to refuse to agree to CETA, but also that more than 3.5 million Europeans have signed a petition against CETA, that 320,000 people marched against CETA in cities across Germany last month, that 88 per cent of Austrians oppose CETA because it shifts power to transnational corporations, that 81 per cent of people in France said they believed CETA would undermine French standards protecting health, food quality, the environment and the climate, and that several other EU member state governments have concerns about CETA but were unwilling to block the deal.

"There is no way to meet the demands of the millions in Europe opposed to CETA without opening the deal itself. Wallonia's courageous stand will send our governments back to the drawing board, hopefully to think about a very different kind of trade agreement based on the values of sustainability and justice," said Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow.

The Council of Canadians is calling on Trudeau and Freeland to agree to postpone Thursday’s signing ceremony and to a substantive renegotiation of the pact.

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.