EU faces major test of trade resolve with Canada deal approval

Wed Jun 1, 2016 11:43am EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A rejection or labored approval of a free trade deal struck with Canada could scupper the European Union's chances of opening access to new markets, the EU and Canadian trade chiefs said on Wednesday.

The European Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28 EU members, and Canada have concluded talks on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that could increase trade between the two by some 20 percent.

It is likely to secure backing in the Canadian and European parliaments, but support from the 28 members is far from certain.

"If the two closest allies in the world cannot agree a deal, then who can?" EU Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmstrom told the European Business Summit in Brussels. Her view was echoed more bluntly by Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

"If the EU cannot do a deal with Canada, I think it is legitimate to say who the heck can it do a deal with," she said.

Malmstrom said her hope was that the deal would be adopted before the end of October when it could be signed during a planned visit to Brussels by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Commission needs to determine in the next month whether it can be cleared by governments alone or if each country needs to push the trade deal through their parliaments - or in Belgium's case four parliaments, one of which opposes the agreement.

Bulgaria and Romania have also expressed reluctance given Canada does not extend its visa-waiver entry system to their citizens.   Continued...

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie