Belgian parliament rejects CETA, threatening to kill entire deal

The Walloon parliament Friday voted by a large majority to reject the CETA deal, adding to the threat that the EU's landmark agreement with Canada will be killed and undermining Brussels' ability to steer the world's biggest trade bloc.

The EU says the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement deal with Canada will improve trade, create jobs, and remove just about all tariffs and custom duties while at the same time guaranteeing European standards on anything from food and health quality to labor rights.

"I will not give powers to the federal government and Belgium will not sign Ceta [the agreement] on 18 October", Wallonian prime minister Paul Magnette said on Friday.

"I do not intend this as a burial but as a demand to reopen negotiations", said Magnette, who is under huge worldwide pressure to reverse his position.

The crisis over CETA comes as European Union leaders struggle to keep the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the United States alive.

French President Francois Hollande asked Magnette to come to Paris on Friday to discuss the matter, a move seen by some as an unprecedented outreach by the leader of the French republic to an otherwise small, regional government.

"I am anxious about the future of Europe; why add another crisis?" said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who still hopes to approve the deal on Tuesday.

"Just because we are friends with Canada, that doesn't mean we can't tell them we don't agree on something", said premier Magnette, before the chamber voted 46-16 against approving CETA. He warned that killing the deal would send "a very clear message. that Europe is not productive".

Poorer, industrial Wallonia has grown increasingly protectionist in stark contrast to richer, Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, which eagerly embraces globalisation.

Also paying attention are British officials whose hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union will also require unanimous support across the bloc - including the stubborn Walloons.

The Wallonia government "stands isolated on the European and global scene", he said.

Last weekend, David Lametti, the parliamentary Secretary to Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, met in Canada with a delegation of legislators from the Wallonia Parliament. This parliament truly defends its citizens, not the interests of lobbyists and corporations.

Belgian officials, faced with the embarrassing hiccup on the very doorstep of the European Union institutions based in Brussels, have yet to say how they plan to react.

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