EU and Canadian leaders sign 'historic' trade deal

CETA has faced strong opposition over years of negotiation and controversy

EU and Canadian leaders sign 'historic' trade deal

Donald Tusk, Justin Trudeau and Jean-Claude Juncker at EU-Canada Summit. Image © European Union, 2016

EU and Canadian leaders have welcomed the signing of the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA).

The agreement was signed by EU leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a summit in Brussels today.

The finalisation of the deal comes after seven years of negotiations and controversy.

The deal had been threatened at the final hour as a result of the refusal of the French-speaking Wallonia region in Belgium to pass the deal.

However, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced a deal which allayed opponents' concerns regarding agricultural exports and the state/corporation dispute settlement system - clearing the way for the official signing of CETA.

Speaking after signing the new deal, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Today, the people of Canada and the European Union have opened a new chapter in their relationship. More than half a billion people on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy new opportunities. For many people, it will mean new jobs and better jobs.

"Our Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement promotes all the things that Canadians and Europeans care about: decency in the workplace, our health and safety, our cultural diversity, the quality of the land, sea and air that surround us."

Mr Trudeau, meanwhile, said: “The signing of CETA is a historic occasion. This modern and progressive agreement will reinforce the strong links between Canada and the EU, and create vast new opportunities for Canadians and Europeans alike - opening new markets for our exporters, offering more choices and better prices to consumers, and forging stronger ties between our economies.”

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan also welcomed the agreement.

“CETA is important for Ireland, given the considerable further trade potential between Ireland and Canada which we must exploit for the benefit of the citizens of both of our countries," he observed.

"This groundbreaking agreement comes at an important time, following the UK vote to leave the EU. The Government will work to ensure Irish businesses, producers and our citizens benefit from CETA."

While leaders have promised jobs and economic benefits from the deal, it also faced strong opposition.

A particular source of contention has been its investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, which critics have suggested could allow businesses to take legal action against governments.