Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders on Saturday signed the CETA agreement at a ceremony in Brussels, his spokesman Didier Vanderhasselt told POLITICO.
The formal approval of Belgium’s federal government will allow EU leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement at an EU-Canada summit on Sunday.
A green light from Belgium will allow the EU member states to start implementing CETA on provisional basis at the beginning of next year.
The signing ceremony on Saturday took place at the Palais d’Egmont, a conference center, two days after regional authorities gave their approval to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), ending days of tense negotiations with the federal government, the EU and Canadian officials.
Vanderhasselt said in an interview that Reynders had signed the agreement in the presence of Cecilia Malmström, European Trade Commissioner, Mauro Petriccione, the Commission’s chief negotiator on CETA, Olivier Nicoloff, Canada’s ambassador in Belgium, … and Jean-Pierre Tanghe, the president of the Belgian-Canadian Chamber of commerce.
Sunday’s summit will come as a relief for European and Canadian trade officials, who had been negotiating the trade deal since 2013. Their efforts were blocked two weeks ago by the parliament of Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia.
Wallonia resisted to CETA in part because it was seeking further assurances on agricultural and legal aspects of the trade pact between Brussels and Ottawa.
On Sunday, Trudeau will be joined by Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, and Donald Tusk, the Council president at a signing ceremony at noon local time.
In a statement, posted on its website, the Council said, “the agreement comes with a binding joint interpretative instrument, which explains what the provisions mean in practice.”
Many EU officials hailed the agreement on Twitter on Saturday, expressing satisfaction that the deadlock on CETA was over.
Juncker said in tweet, “Hard work and patience paid off. Looking forward to tomorrow’s #EUCanada Summit.”