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Canada Walks Out Of EU Trade Talks Unable To Break Deadlock


One of the most contentious issues in this year's presidential election has been international trade, and it's controversial in other countries, too. Public hostility in Europe has stymied a huge trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU. And now, a free-trade deal between Canada and the EU called CETA is falling apart. That's because Wallonia, a region in Belgium, refuses to accept it. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland looked like she was about to cry as she walked out on Walloon officials in the Belgian town of Namur.


CHRYSTIA FREELAND: (Speaking French).

NELSON: She told reporters, "Canada worked really hard, as did I, to make this trade deal happen. But it seems the European Union is unable to conclude an agreement." The Walloon president, Paul Magnette, was more optimistic, telling reporters that, quote, "difficulties remain, but talks would continue." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to come to Brussels next Thursday to sign the pact, but Magnette suggested he delay his trip. His tiny French-speaking enclave has the power to kill the deal because Belgium's constitution requires all of its regions to agree before the country can sign the trade pact effecting a half billion people.


PAUL MAGNETTE: (Speaking French).

NELSON: Magnette told the Wallonia Parliament earlier this week that the deal as it's written will hurt local farmers and decimate Europe's labor, environmental and consumer standards. He also objects to the establishment of independent arbitration courts, which he fears will side with multinational companies over local enterprises. But EU president Donald Tusk told reporters following a summit in Brussels that he sees another issue at play - the long-running feud between the minority French and majority Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium.


DONALD TUSK: The problem with CETA and Wallonia today, it's not a formal or technical dilemma or problem. We witness here also the internal politics in Belgium.

NELSON: Tusk says EU officials will scramble over the next few days to break the logjam and realize a deal that promises to deliver to Europe billions in added trade through tariff cuts.


TUSK: I remain concerned for a good trade agreement with our close partner and ally, Canada, and for Europe's reputation.

NELSON: If CETA fails, he and other European leaders warn that the bloc's credibility will be ruined. That, they add, could prevent the EU from closing similar trade deals with the United States and Japan. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Soraya Nelson
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