WHILST 27 of the 28 members of the European Union were in favour of a trade deal known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, a small French speaking community in Belgium with just 3.6 million people, Wallonia has blocked the signing of the agreement.
The EU had given Belgium until Monday October 24 to ratify the agreement which had been under negotiation for no less than seven years and now Prime Minister Charles Michel has been forced to confirm that his government is unable to agree to proceed with the deal which required a unanimous vote from all EU members.
This was the ‘little brother’ of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP) which was up for agreement with the USA and it was considered that once Ceta went through, then it would be easier for TTIP to be approved although the French at least, perhaps remembering that they had been dubbed ‘Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys’ by America in the past were not supportive and others had doubts.
Although many governments argued that the agreements would make trade between Europe and North America much easier, opponents contended that it undermined national and European wide laws and would make it easy for American corporations to sue European governments in the event that they acted against the financial interests of the companies involved.
There has always been a concept of sovereign immunity which would effectively be destroyed with the signing of either agreement and this has been one of the mainstays of the opposition against them.