The EU has finally signed the free trade deal with Canada after Belgian region Wallonia dropped its opposition. The signing ceremony was initially planned for Thursday; unfortunately, it was cancelled after Wallonia vetoed the agreement. The region agreed after being assured that Belgium could assess the deal’s environmental and socioeconomic impacts, and could challenge the dispute resolution system in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, at the European Court of Justice. The deal was finally signed on Friday, after the approval of all 28 EU states in Brussels, by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top EU officials. CETA removes 99 per cent of tariffs and is expected to generate an increase in trade worth $12 billion (€10.9bn/£9.8bn) a year. According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, it will also open new opportunities for “more than half-a-billion people on both sides of the Atlantic”.
This landmark agreement boosts hopes for Britain’s free trade future after Brexit as Canadian ministers have signaled that they will allow a free trade with the UK on the same terms as CETA. However, the complications over the agreement and the lengthy delays had raised concerns about future negotiations on a Brexit trade deal. Welcoming the trade agreement Theresa May said, “The UK has long been a powerful and positive force for free trade and we will continue to be one. Indeed, I want Britain to be the global champion for free trade, recognising the opportunities of such trade deals for businesses and customers around the world.”