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EU pushes Belgium to support free trade deal with Canada

The European Union has issued Brussels with a deadline to reach an agreement on the free trade deal with Canada, CETA. All 28 EU governments have backed the deal, but Belgium has not been able to give its official assent without unanimous support from its five regional administrations. French-speaking Wallonia has steadfastly opposed the deal.

The EU has given Belgium until late Monday 24 Oct., to overcome the resistance to the agreement or risk putting an end to years of negotiations and the possibility of what some experts say could be a 20-percent boost to trade.

"The Commission has been working 24/7 to find a solution," said EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, on Twitter. "We now hope that Belgium will bring this matter to a successful close."

A trade agreement between Canada and the EU should be signed next week, according to European Parliament President, Martin Schulz. However, the Belgian region of Wallonia remains a stumbling block. 

But Wallonia has rejected the bloc's 24-hour deadline. Late on Sunday, the region's leader, Paul Magnette, told the Belga news agency that an "ultimatum is not compatible with the exercise of democratic rights."

Wallonia has refused to assent to the deal on the grounds that it will hurt European farmers and grants too much power to international corporations. According to Magnette, his administration was also given almost no time to debate the far-ranging trade deal.

Some EU insiders have accused Magnette and his government of using CETA as leverage to make gains in domestic politics.

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, told state broadcaster RTBF that he was meeting with the leaders of the country's five regions on Monday in hopes of hammering out any problems.

The EU has warned it will cancel a summit planned for Thursday to sign the accord with Ottawa, unless Belgium can break the deadlock.

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