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Trudeau To Sign CETA On Sunday

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves for Europe Saturday to sign the Canada-EU free trade deal, days after the future of the agreement teetered on a precipice.

Trudeau is to depart for Brussels to attend a summit set for Sunday.

The Prime Minister's Office says Trudeau spoke on Friday with European Council president Donald Tusk, who confirmed the texts of the deal.

Trudeau was expected to sign the deal earlier this week, but the Belgian region of Wallonia put the future of the agreement in doubt by opposing the controversial deal.

Canada's International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland walked out of talks with the Europeans a week ago saying it appeared the EU was incapable of signing an agreement.

justin trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to caucus on Parliament Hill on Oct. 26, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

The tiny French-speaking region of 3.5 million people opposed the deal's investor protection provisions, but Wallonia's concerns were finally addressed on Thursday.

Wallonia held a veto over Belgium's ability to support the deal, which requires the support of all 28 EU countries. But its parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow the Belgian national government to support the pact.

The deal, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA, was negotiated by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

An agreement Thursday gives national and regional parliaments throughout Europe new powers over those controversial investor protection provisions, prompting warnings from some observers that the pact remains a fragile one.

The Council of the European Union adopted a package of decisions on matters such as signing the agreement, its provisional application and requiring the European Parliament's consent to conclude the deal.

paul magnette wallonia
Paul Magnette, Minister-President of Wallonia, leaves a CETA meeting in Belgium on Oct. 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman)

They also agreed to a joint text with Canada that provides a "binding interpretation'' of the terms of the pact on certain issues, according to a statement on the council's website.

"I am delighted to confirm that the EU is ready to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada, said Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, the current president of the council.

"The CETA represents a modern and progressive deal, opening the door to new opportunities, while protecting important interests. Moreover, it has the potential to set the way forward for future trade deals.''

The Walloons dropped their opposition following an agreement Thursday with the Belgian government that gave national and regional parliaments throughout Europe new powers over controversial investor protection provisions.

Agreement still fragile

That deal prompted warnings from some observers that the pact remains a fragile one.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May, long an opponent of the Canada-EU deal, urged Trudeau to stay home and host a debate on the agreement "so that Canadians understand the stakes of CETA, including its use of risky foreign investor provisions.''

"This agreement undermines environmental regulations and will favour multinational companies at the expense of Canadian sovereignty,'' May said in a statement. "In the current form, we must continue to oppose the adoption of CETA.''

Politicians in Wallonia had argued that the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies. Supporters said it would yield billions in added trade through customs and tariff cut.

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