A landmark EU-Canada free trade deal called Ceta has hit a serious snag after a Belgian region rejected it, threatening the signing this month.
Parliament in French-speaking Wallonia voted to prevent Belgium’s government from signing the draft deal.
EU trade ministers are to decide on Ceta next Tuesday. If they all approve it, the deal can be signed with Canada on 27 October.
Ceta is the EU’s most ambitious trade deal to date, lifting most barriers.
Walloon leader Paul Magnette said he would “not give the full powers to the federal government” to back the deal.
The EU has agreed that parts of Ceta will be implemented before all national parliaments have voted on it.
Opponents fear that Ceta will be used as a model to push through an even more controversial EU-US trade deal, called TTIP, much of which remains to be negotiated.
The activists argue that Ceta and similar deals put job security and social welfare at risk, in a global “race to the bottom” that serves the interests of a wealthy elite.
At a glance: Ceta
- Negotiations began in 2009 and ended in August 2014
- The deal aims to eliminate 98% of tariffs between Canada and EU
- Signing expected on 27 October, to implement parts of Ceta, then European Parliament and national parliaments vote on it
- It includes: new courts for investors; harmonised regulations; sustainable development clauses; and access to public sector tenders
- The deal is opposed by various groups, including environmental activists, trade unionists, and Austrian Socialists
A Canadian government trade spokesman, Alex Lawrence, told the BBC that Ceta “remains a top priority for Canada” and “we are still working with our partners in Europe to conclude this agreement”.
“This is a progressive deal. If Europe is unable to sign a progressive trade deal with a country like Canada, this will send a clear and unfortunate signal,” he said.
Canadian envoy Pierre Pettigrew will meet Mr Magnette later on Friday, he said.
“We are working hard with our European partners so Ceta can be signed this fall and implemented next year.”
Some British politicians see Ceta as a good basis for a post-Brexit UK trade deal with the EU. The UK can vote for Ceta while it remains a full EU member.
Ceta does not involve EU-style free movement of labour. But for services – 80% of the UK economy – the Ceta terms are less favourable than those they have now.
Belgium snag for EU-Canada trade deal Ceta