Wallonia uses foreign powers of Belgian regions to block EU-Canada trade deal

Walloon Parliament vetoes agreement · Belgian regions hols powers over foreign affairs

Paul Magnette s'adreça al Parlament való per explicar les raons del no al CETA.
Paul Magnette s'adreça al Parlament való per explicar les raons del no al CETA. Author: Tripalio/YouTube
The Walloon Parliament maintained, on Friday 21 October, its veto on the free trade agreement (CETA) negotiated between the European Union and Canada. It is a peculiar situation due to the fact that Belgian regions have powers over foreign affairs, unlike regions in most countries. The Flemish government supports the transatlantic agreement while the EU is mobilizing to persuade the Walloons to sign the deal.

Negotiations between the EU and the Walloon government will continue this Friday, and could be extended over the weekend. The bloc wants to sign this agreement on October 27, during an EU-Canada summit in Bratislava (Slovakia).

The Flemish executive gave its green light to CETA on 16 September. Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois then said that the agreement was "extremely important for Flanders" as Flemish companies and the agricultural sector "will benefit" from it. The agreement will lift 98% of the tariffs between Canada and the EU.

In an extensive analysis, Politico reports that the volume of trade between Flanders and Canada is more than ten times superior than that between Wallonia and the North American country.

But in Wallonia, the government headed by socialist Paul Magnette does not agree with several articles of the proposed agreement. The Walloon Socialists fear that the agreement will reduce the powers of democratically elected governments against multinationals, and warn that this could have negative consequences on environmental standards.

The opposition to CETA is rooted in more in the European left rather than in the right. Those opposing the treaty stress that it will destroy more jobs than it will create, and that European public policies will be threatened by an eventual liberalization of services such as education and health. They also fear that food industry multinational companies based in Canada take advantage of the CETA to massively introduce products such as hormone-treated meat or chlorinated chicken to the European markets.