BRUSSELS — International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was sounding more hopeful about the future of the Canada-EU free trade deal after meeting Saturday morning with European Parliament President Martin Schulz in Brussels.
She said she was heading back to Canada, but hoped to return with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement — also know as CETA.
"The ball is in Europe's court and it's time for Europe to finish doing its job," she said.
It was a significant change in tone from Friday when Freeland walked away from talks on the verge of tears, saying the EU appeared incapable of signing the deal.
The Belgian region of Wallonia affirmed Saturday that it still stands in the way of the accord between Canada and the 28-nation European Union, but its president, Paul Magnette, and Schulz were both cautiously optimistic the standoff could be resolved within days.
A weary-looking Freeland emerged Saturday at a press conference with Schulz, where he said the EU was committed to signing the deal with Canada.
Freeland nodded in agreement as Schulz said he was optimistic the EU would be able to solve its internal problems.
"The problems on the table are European problems," Schulz said. "I checked once more the position of the Canadian government and I'm very optimistic that we can solve the problems that we have within the European Union."
Freeland's office did not respond to requests for comment.
After Saturday's separate talks with Freeland and Magnette, Schulz said he was hopeful a compromise could be found to clear the way for Thursday's planned EU-Canada summit.
"To my eyes, there is no problem we cannot resolve," he told reporters, while Magnette said, "I think it's worth taking a little more time."
Politicians in Wallonia argue the proposed deal would undermine labour, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies.
EU leaders have warned that failure to clinch the deal with Canada could ruin the bloc's credibility as a trade partner and make it more difficult to strike such agreements with the United States, Japan and other allies.