Canada’s Minister of International Trade walked out of talks in Belgium on Friday, expressing despair over the chances of Canada and the European Union finalizing their trade deal.
Chrystia Freeland is heading home without an agreement after three days of meetings with Belgian and European Leaders — less than a week before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was supposed to attend a signing summit.
“Canada has worked, and I personally have worked very hard, but it is now evident to me, evident to Canada, that the European Union is incapable of reaching an agreement — even with a country with European values such as Canada, even with a country as nice and as patient as Canada,” said Freeland, using some surprisingly frank language in a translated statement shared by her office.
“Canada is disappointed and I personally am disappointed, but I think it’s impossible. We are returning home. At least I will see my three children tomorrow at our home,” she continued.
Wallonia — a French-speaking region of around 3.6 million people in Belgium — is blocking the deal, as Belgium requires approval from its regional governments before giving its assent at the EU level. The EU had set a Friday deadline for Belgium to secure support for the deal.
“We spent today here working very hard with the Walloons and the Commission to respond to the concerns expressed by the Walloons,” noted Freeland.
If implemented, the Canada-EU deal would see over 95% of EU agricultural tariffs on Canadian exports eliminated, including those of our key agricultural export interests such as meats, grains and oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, and processed foods. Currently only 18% of EU agricultural tariffs are duty-free.
It would also allow an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese imports into Canada per year. The Canadian government has said it would compensate dairy producers for the lost market share.
The Globe and Mail is reporting the signing ceremony that Trudeau was supposed to attend on October 27th has been cancelled.