Free trade deal

BRUSSELS – The European Union and Canada will sign a free trade agreement on Sunday that aims to boost jobs and growth after weeks of uncertainty and opposition in part of EU member Belgium that had threatened to scupper the entire deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected in Brussels for a signing ceremony with leaders of the EU institutions billed as an EU-Canada summit, all eager to ink a deal before any further hiccup.

The French speakers of southern Belgium, a minority within their own small country and accounting for less than 1 per cent of the 508 million EU consumers likely to be affected by the deal, had held it up until a breakthrough on Thursday, confirmed by regional parliamentary votes on Friday.

The Canadian agreement is seen as a springboard to a larger EU deal with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP), which has been much criticised by civil society groups and some politicians.

While that deal was planned to be completed before the end of US President Barack Obama’s term in January, both sides now acknowledge this is no longer feasible.

On Saturday, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said TTIP was not dead and talks with the United States would continue with the next US administration.

Supporters say the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada will increase trade between the partners by 20 per cent and boost the EU economy by 12 billion euros ($F27b) a year and Canada’s by $C12b ($F18b). This would come at a time of low growth with monetary policy at its limits and fiscal policy constrained.

For Canada the deal is important to reduce its reliance on the neighboring United States as an export market.

For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G7 country and a success plucked from the jaws of defeat at a time when the bloc’s credibility has taken a beating from Britain’s vote in June to leave after 43 years of membership.

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