July 24, 2017 / 10:30 AM / 2 months ago

Belgian opponent of Canada free trade deal leaves national politics

Minister-President of Wallonia Paul Magnette leaves a meeting on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement CETA, a planned EU-Canada free trade agreement, at the Lambermont Residence in Brussels, Belgium, October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Belgian Socialist leader who last year became a figurehead for opposition within Europe to an EU-Canada trade pact is stepping back from national politics.

As premier of the Walloon region, Paul Magnette refused to allow Belgium’s federal government to back the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), threatening to kill the deal.

He yielded after weeks of negotiations, having received assurances on investor protection issues and that Canadian imports would not disrupt the Walloon farming industry.

Magnette told a news conference on Monday he would leave the Walloon assembly and focus on his role as mayor of the city of Charleroi.

He had said the Walloon region was not certain to ratify CETA in coming years, but his government coalition collapsed in June when junior partners pulled out after a series of scandals hit the Socialist Party.

CETA, set to enter force provisionally in September, still requires unanimous backing from all 28 EU member countries, along with Belgium’s regions, to be applied in full.

Wallonia’s Christian Democrats and Liberals are currently in coalition talks likely to result in a government less opposed to international trade deals.

Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and John Stonestreet

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