European Union and Canada signed yesterday in Brussels the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), opening the path to the abolition of customs duties on almost all products in mutual trade, but the agreement must be ratified in all EU member countries before it becomes effective and that might turn out to be a serious obstacle.
Several hours before the signing, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said that days ago this agreement had already been declared guilty in public, and “today we have an agreement that can be considered a standard for future trade agreements”.
“Today’s signing can also serve as a message to those who wrote the EU off as ineffective, incapable of making agreements, and self-oriented. The EU does not turn its back to the world, it is determined more than ever to cooperate with its partners, defend its values and create opportunities for its citizens and enterprises,” Schulz said.
The agreement was supposed to be signed on October 27, but it was postponed because the consent of all EU member countries was not yet obtained. Belgium could not give consent due to the opposition from the francophone region of Wallonia, which requested additional guarantee for the protection of its agricultural products from the predominance of multinational companies in possible investment disputes with member countries. In order to sign international agreements, Belgium must obtain consent from all federal entities.
After intense negotiations between the federal government and representatives of regional authorities, an inter-Belgian agreement was reached on a text that will be annexed to the CETA, which opened the path to yesterday’s signing of the agreement.
The agreement will become partially and temporarily effective next year, after it is approved by European and Canadian parliaments.
The European Commission stated that CETA will bring “evident” benefits to the EU companies because 99 percent of customs will be abolished.