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Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris, Warsaw, and Madrid on Saturday to protest the EU-Canada trade deal known as CETA. Protesters in Poland are pictured here. (Photo: Reuters)

'Massive Body Blow' for CETA as EU Trade Ministers Postpone Vote

"CETA is hitting the rocks because it is bad trade deal that only favors corporations," says Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe

Deirdre Fulton

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the E.U. and Canada suffered yet another setback on Tuesday, as EU trade ministers postponed a decision on the trade deal due in large part to objections from Belgium's southern region of Wallonia. 

The Associated Press reports that "Wallonia fears that its farmers will be priced out of the market with cheap Canadian produce and that many of the labor standards they fought for will be swept away."

Furthermore, AP added: "Many Walloons say the CETA deal with Canada will be a precursor for a similar deal with the United States, the so-called [TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP], which they fear will cut even further into their livelihoods and consumer and environmental standards."

As recently as last week, Wallonia's parliament voted to reject CETA—inviting what the region's Minister President Paul Magnette described as "barely disguised threats" from corporate and political entities supporting the deal.

And as the Council of Canadians pointed out, "it's not only Wallonia opposing CETA. German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel notes that Romania still has questions (regarding visa-free travel for its citizens to Canada). And it's possible that there might be other European Union countries, including Bulgaria and Slovenia, that are also reluctant [to] sign CETA."

Campaigners rejoiced as the trade deal—which has galvanized protests throughout Europe and Canada, including one on Tuesday outside the trade ministers' meeting—faltered.

"Never before in history has a trade deal experience[d] such difficulties in the EU council. Today CETA suffered a massive body blow and is now in perilous danger of joining TTIP on the scrapheap of failed corporate power grabs," said Guy Taylor, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now. 

"CETA is hitting the rocks because it is [a] bad trade deal that only favors corporations," added Paul de Clerck, economic justice program coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe. "The Walloon government's persistence in backing public concerns is exemplary and we strongly support its refusal to sign CETA. We need a new trade policy for Europe that takes people's concerns into account and contributes to a more sustainable and equitable world."

Still, officials remained optimistic that the deal will be signed when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flies to Europe next week.

According to the AP:

EU Foreign Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said there was still time to overcome Belgian objections right up to "when the prime minister needs to book his tickets from Canada."

"We are not really there yet," she said. "But there is still time."

In turn, Taylor noted that CETA "isn't dead yet and we will be stepping up the campaign to protect our public services, our environment, and our democracy from this toxic deal."

And the Council of Canadians said it was "calling on the Canadian government and European Union member state governments to cancel the summit still scheduled to take place in Brussels on October 27. We are also calling on the Canadian government, EU officials and transnational corporations to stop their intense pressure on Wallonia to sign CETA and to listen to widely-held public concerns about the deal."

Follow the developments and protests under the hashtag #StopCETA:


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