(L to R) European Council President Donald Tusk, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrive at the EU-Canada summit meeting, on October 30, 2016 at the European Union headquarters in Brussels. (AFP photo)
Top officials from the European Union and Canada have finally signed a controversial trade agreement in Brussels, capping seven years of negotiations, which sparked massive concerns and protests across Europe
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the European Council building on Sunday amid tight security as activists protested outside by throwing red paint at the EU headquarters, banging drums and chanting slogans.
Trudeau met with EU President Donald Tusk and the European Commission chief, Jean-Claude Juncker, hailing their efforts to overcome obstacles to signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
“Things were difficult but we managed to succeed in the end … Well done, well done,” Trudeau said as he hugged and kissed the EU leaders.
Juncker replied by hailing the agreement as historic, which, he said, could become a benchmark for similar transatlantic accords.
“What patience … This is an important day for the EU and for Canada too because we are setting an international standard that will have to be followed by others,” said Juncker.
Trudeau had been due in Brussels on Thursday, but the signing session was cancelled after Belgium, as a major EU member, said earlier in the week that it could not sign off on the deal due to objections from its regions, especially Wallonia in the south. Walloons then managed to win concessions for their farming sector, which like many other industries across Europe, has resisted CETA due to potential impacts that it could have on production and job security in the continent.
Many fear CETA, and a twin agreement which the EU is negotiating with the United States, could seriously undermine agricultural and environmental standards in Europe. The public and state protest against the EU-US trade pact, which is known as TTIP, forced Washington to abandon hopes for finalizing the accord before the end of current US administration in January.