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EU gives Belgium ultimatum over Canada trade pact

Staff Writer |
The European Union gave Belgium a 24-hour ultimatum Sunday to say whether it can back an EU-Canada trade deal, warning otherwise it will cancel a summit to sign the accord with Ottawa.

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In an embarrassment for the 28-nation EU, Belgium has so far been unable to sign up to the CETA trade deal because of blockage by its French-speaking region of Wallonia.

Canada’s trade minister Chrystia Freeland flew home from Brussels Saturday saying the ball was in the EU’s court, after talks on Friday failed to overcome the differences.

She said she still hoped to be able to come back with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the accord as planned at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

On Sunday a European source said European Council President Donald Tusk would call Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Monday afternoon or evening, to see if the deal can be salvaged.

Tusk will ask Michel “one simple question: will Belgium be in a position to sign the agreement on Thursday, yes or no?” said the European source.

The EU Council chief will also call European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “to share an assessment of where we are,” and lastly Trudeau “to decide whether to maintain the summit.”

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