EU-Canada trade deal hits resistance in Belgian fortress Wallonia

Fri Oct 14, 2016 12:24pm EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop

NAMUR, Belgium (Reuters) - The Belgian fortress city of Namur, besieged by European armies down the centuries, issued a declaration of war on the global economic order on Friday with a vote to reject a planned EU-Canada free trade agreement.

The parliament of the region of Wallonia voted in its seat at Namur after a similar decision by the parliament of French speakers in Brussels earlier this week, results which risk killing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

And yet the deal is supported by Ottawa and all 28 EU national governments, including Belgium's.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel's government was racing to find a solution, although officials stressed that it was the local governments rather than parliaments that would have the final say.

A number, also including that of the tiny 76,000-strong German-speaking community, had not responded.

France also stepped up its pressure on its small francophone northern neighbor by inviting Wallonia's premier Paul Magnette to talks in Paris later on Friday with his fellow Socialist, French President Francois Hollande.

By contrast, Austria ended weeks of wavering, its chancellor saying his country would not stand in the way of a deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he knew it was going to require hard work right to the very end.   Continued...

A deputy wears a sticker against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) during a debate on CETA, a planned EU-Canada free trade agreement, at the Walloon regional parliament in Namur, Belgium, October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir