Canada blasts 'incapable' EU as trade talks fail

The barb from an emotional Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian trade minister, fed into warnings by EU leaders that the 28-nation bloc may now never be able to land any other deals including one with the United States.

Canada blasts 'incapable' EU as trade talks fail

Brussels: Canada blasted the European Union as incapable of signing international agreements Friday as talks to persuade the Belgian region of Wallonia to sign up to a huge trade deal broke down.

The barb from an emotional Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian trade minister, fed into warnings by EU leaders that the 28-nation bloc may now never be able to land any other deals including one with the United States.

"It seems obvious to me, to Canada, that the European Union is incapable now of having an international agreement, even with a country with such European values as Canada, and even with a country as kind and patient as Canada," Freeland said on Belgian television.

Stopping several times to compose herself after walking out of the negotiations in Namur, the capital of French-speaking Wallonia, Freeland added: "Canada is disappointed, me personally I`m very disappointed."

"I worked very, very hard, but I think it`s impossible. We have decided to return home and I am very, very sad. It`s really emotional for me. The only good thing for me is that tomorrow morning I will be with my three children," she added.

A source at the European Commission, the executive of the EU, confirmed the talks have "come to a halt" but told AFP the "Commission doesn`t consider that this is the end of the process."

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada is opposed by anti-globalisation groups who say it is a test model to push through an even more controversial EU-US trade deal called TTIP, talks on which have also stalled.

There have been protests against both deals in several cities.

Freeland was speaking after marathon talks in the walled Wallonian capital of Namur with local leader Paul Magnette and an EU official.

The talks were closely watched in Brussels where EU leaders were pressuring Wallonia to stop blocking the trade deal, which requires the support of all 28 EU member states.

Magnette, Wallonia`s head of government, had earlier dismissed the latest compromise offer as "insufficient" saying "I feel there is a will to advance but there remain difficulties."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had planned to visit Brussels next week to sign the deal but that looks almost certain to be called off.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a closing summit press conference earlier that he still hoped a deal would be finalised in a few days, but could not hide his frustration over the failure to conclude a pact he strongly backed.

'Dictatorship of dictatorships'

In a sarcastic tone, Juncker said he is "astonished" that an EU-Vietnam trade deal met no opposition and "yet when we try to reach an agreement with Canada, the dictatorship of dictatorships, people say `oh no, we`re worried about human rights`."

The Namur parliament last week voted to block CETA -- meaning that Belgium cannot sign up to the pact and leaving the deal in limbo after seven years of negotiations.

CETA would link the EU market of 500 million people with the world`s 10th biggest economy.

Wallonia enjoyed support from activist groups like Greenpeace which charged that the deal risked satisfying "corporate greed" and trampling on people`s rights and health standards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Magnette on Friday pointed in particular to a highly controversial investment protection scheme buried in the deal that has drawn the fury of activists.

This proposal is supposed to protect investors who fear that local laws such as health and safety regulations can violate a trade deal and threaten their investments.

Opponents instead say it allows commercial interests to force governments to change laws.

"I have the impression that the Walloon government has radicalised its position," said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel who firmly backs the deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday dismissed warnings from Michel that the EU-Canada deal raised serious questions about whether London could strike a similar agreement after Brexit.

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