EU's Tusk says CETA
signing summit still possible on Thursday
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[October 26, 2016]
By Philip Blenkinsop and Robert-Jan Bartunek
(Reuters) - A planned EU-Canada summit to sign a free trade deal was
still possible on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said
on Wednesday, as Belgian politicians entered a second day of talks on
the future of the pact.
Prime Minister Charles Michel hosted talks from early on Tuesday of
regional authorities, including of Wallonia and Brussels that have
rejected an accord backed by all 27 other EU governments.
The talks paused after two hours to allow some of those present to
attend a funeral of a Belgian politician. They were scheduled to resume
at 1500 CET (1300 GMT).
Without assent from its regions and linguistic communities, Belgium
cannot sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) at a
planned EU-Canada summit on Thursday to be attended by Canadian Prime
Minister Justin Trudeau.
"I still hope that Belgium will prove that it is a consensus-building
champion and that we will be able to finalize this agreement soon," Tusk
told a session of the European Parliament.
Tusk said that there would be consequences for Europe's global position
if it failed to strike a free trade deal with Canada, "the most European
country outside Europe and a close friend and ally".
"But it is too early to go there yet. As we speak, the summit tomorrow
is still possible.
European Commission President Jean-Claude later told the parliament he
was optimistic that there would be an agreement in the course of the
day, but it was not clear whether this would allow a signing on
"When it happens is less important that than it happens," he said.
Belgium's federal government failed in six hours of negotiations on
Tuesday to overcome the regional veto centered on agricultural imports
and an investment court system that critics say can be abused by
multinationals to dictate public policy.
Paul Magnette, the Socialist premier of Wallonia, said he was not
looking for Ottawa to relaunch negotiations.
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Members of the Confederal Group of the European United Left of the
European Parliament display posters with the words "stop CETA" as
they take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in
Strasbourg, France, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
"Between the EU and Canada the agreement is closed and we are very happy
with that, but we still have some problems in Europe and Belgium and
we're doing our best to solve them," he told reporters as the talks
Oliver Paasch, head of Belgium's 76,000-strong German-speaking community
which also wants improvements, said progress has been made on the
investment court issue, with agriculture still needing to be discussed.
An entire package would be discussed from Wednesday afternoon.
"Today we see that the European Commission has made many concessions, I
believe an agreement is possible, also within Belgium," he told Reuters
Only the Michel's center-right federal government and the Dutch-speaking
Flanders region, with a majority of Belgium's population, supports CETA
as it stands.
(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Raissa
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