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EU member states approve Canada trade deal

dpadpa 28/10/2016

EU member states have backed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada.

EU member states have officially endorsed the landmark Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, the European Council says.

"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. Slovakia currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"It represents a milestone in the EU's trade policy and our commitment to it," Fico said in a statement, calling it 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."

Earlier on Friday, Belgium's regional parliament of Wallonia gave the go-ahead for the country to approve the deal after its opposition to the accord scuppered this week's planned signing ceremony.

CETA, which aims to lift trade barriers and ease the flow of goods between Canada and the EU, was supposed to be signed on Thursday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and EU officials in Brussels.

But Belgium was unable to back the move, because of its internal political deadlock. The EU's 27 other member states were already on board.

Belgian negotiators achieved a breakthrough on Thursday. The country's powerful regional parliaments backed the compromise deal through the course of Friday and give the federal government a mandate to approve CETA.

In Wallonia, 58 deputies voted in favour of the deal and five against.

Belgium's German-speaking community also gave its go-ahead on Friday.

Fears have been rife in the economically embattled region of Wallonia that CETA could weaken social and environmental standards, threaten farmers' livelihoods and give undue powers to corporations.

Proponents of CETA - and a larger free trade deal being pursued with the United States - argue that such accords boost the economy and create jobs.

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