European Parliament head says will try to save Canada-EU deal

Fri Oct 21, 2016 8:42pm EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop and David Ljunggren

BRUSSELS/OTTAWA (Reuters) - The head of the European Parliament said late on Friday he would hold emergency talks in a bid to save a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada that looks to be foundering amid protracted disagreements.

Hours earlier, Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland walked out of talks in Belgium, declaring that the EU was incapable of sealing the deal.

All 28 EU governments support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but Belgium cannot give assent without backing from its five sub-federal administrations, and French-speaking Wallonia has steadfastly opposed it.

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said he would meet Freeland at 7:30 a.m. local time (0530 GMT) on Saturday and Walloon premier Paul Magnette at 9 a.m. to revive the talks.

"We can't stop at last mile," he said on Twitter. Although Schulz is not directly involved in the talks on CETA, he has struck up a good working relationship with Freeland.

A spokesman for Freeland said he could not confirm the meeting would take place but said Freeland was still in Brussels.

The agreement, the EU's first with a Group of Seven country, would, according to supporters, increase trade between the partners by 20 percent.

An emotional Freeland earlier quit talks with chief Canadian and EU trade negotiators and Magnette.   Continued...

Minister-President of Wallonia Paul Magnette attends a meeting on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a planned EU-Canada free trade agreement, at the Walloon regional parliament in Namur, Belgium, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir