Dealing what campaigners say is the final “death blow” to the pro-corporate Canada-European Union trade deal, negotiations collapsed on Friday after representatives from the Belgian region of Wallonia refused to agree to a deal that continues ignore democracy in favor of multi-national corporations.
Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland reportedly walked out of talks with the Wallonia delegation, which had ruled to maintain their veto against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after the parties reached a stalemate over the controversial Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system.
“We made new significant progress, especially on the agriculture issues, but difficulties remain, specifically on the symbolic issue of arbitration, which is politically extremely important,” Wallonia president Paul Magnette told the regional parliament. ISDS permits companies to sue governments over perceived loss of profits due to regulations or other laws.
Magnette had told reporters Thursday that the delegation had particular concerns over “matters affecting U.S. companies in Canada which will benefit from the system.”
Friday’s talks were held as a last-ditch effort to save the trade deal. After they fell apart, an emotional Freeland told reporters, “I’ve worked very, very hard, but I think it’s impossible,” referring to the impasse. “It’s become evident for me, for Canada, that the European Union isn’t capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada.”
Campaigners who have led the fight against CETA and its sister trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—rejoiced over the news, saying the planned October 27 signing ceremony now looks “improbable.”
“Canada’s trade minister may be ‘very, very sad’, but there are millions of people in Europe who will be very, very happy,” said Mark Dearn, senior trade campaigner with the UK-based War on Want.
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