Belgian u-turn clears the way for EU trade deal with Canada

Last minute talks have yielded results...

Belgian u-turn clears the way for EU trade deal with Canada

File photo. Image: Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP/Press Association Images

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michelhas announced that a deal has been secured which will allow the country to back the EU's controversial Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.

He told reporters that a text had been produced which allayed opponents' concerns regarding agricultural exports and the state/corporation dispute settlement system - according to Reuters.

"Finally white smoke on CETA. Belgian agreement reached. Hope a date can be set soon for the EU and Canada to sign the deal," EU trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstorm tweeted after the news was announced.

Belgium cannot support such a deal without the backing of all of its regions and the French-speaking Wallonia had refused to approve the bill.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny reiterated Ireland's support for the deal, he told the Dail that CETA would not impact on labour rights, or environmental protection.

CETA's main point of contention is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms included in these agreements. This allows businesses to take legal actions against governments who introduce new laws which threaten future anticipated profits.

These cases are heard by a three person international tribunal. While courts like this have been criticised for a lack of transparency, the EU says that it has taken a number of measures to address these concerns and to make the legal process as fair and open as possible.

Famously, the ISDS provision in a free trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong allowed the tobacco company Philip Morris to attempt to sue the Australian government after it introduced plain packaging laws.