With ‘trade’ at the center of any substantive differences between US presidential candidates, 1000s protesting ‘trade’ deals across Europe, ‘trade’ collapsing in China, and lame-duck Obama trying to push his ‘trade’ agenda, it is perhaps shocking that Canada’s trade minister walked out of talks to finalize a trade pact with the European Union, saying it now seems the bloc is incapable of reaching such agreements and that Canadian officials are returning home.
As Bloomberg reports, Chrystia Freeland spoke to reporters Friday after negotiations with the European Commission and the leadership of Wallonia collapsed. The French-speaking southern Belgian region is the holdout in approving the deal.
“It is evident to me, for Canada, the European Union is not capable right now to have an international agreement, even with a country that has European values like Canada,” Freeland told reporters in Namur, Belgium. Her spokesman, Alex Lawrence, confirmed by e-mail that she had walked out.
“Canada is disappointed. I am personally very disappointed. I worked very, very hard,” she said.
Freeland’s departure came as EU negotiators hastened across the Belgian countryside to quell domestic concerns over the pact as some EU leaders voiced skepticism about the likelihood of rescuing the agreement, which is backed by twenty-seven of the 28 EU nations.
At stake is an accord known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that the EU says would boost its economic output by about 12 billion euros ($13 billion) a year and expand EU-Canada trade by about a quarter. Any collapse of CETA, which took five years to negotiate, would take the steam out of a series of separate negotiations with the U.S., Japan and other countries as a wave of populist parties around the world challenge the benefits of free trade.
The breakdown threatens to scuttle the bloc’s first commercial accord with a fellow member of the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries. European Commission representatives were still huddling with Walloon diplomats in Namur after a leaders’ summit dispersed in Brussels where they discussed the deal, which requires unanimous support.
“All of us including the commission have been working hard on the Canada agreement,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said after the meeting in the Belgian capital. “I hope that we’ll be able to see an agreed settlement in a few days with the Walloons, our friends, because I believe this CETA agreement is the best agreement we have ever been able to negotiate to date.”
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said after the leaders’ meeting that the EU’s “credibility as a union is at stake” and signaled the collapse of CETA would bury the separate European negotiations with the U.S. on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
“If Europe fails with CETA, it’s very difficult to imagine we can be successful with TTIP,” Roivas said. “This is very serious.”
Looks like Obama’s ‘gold standard’ legacy is not going well. And it makes one wonder if Canada are ‘idiots’ like every mainstream economist and media muppet proclaimed of Donald trump when he dared to question the not so free ‘Free-Trade’ agreements.
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