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EU: Canada Trade Deal Still Possible   10/26 07:09

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- In a race against the clock, the European Union was edging 
closer to being able to sign a free trade deal with Canada on Thursday after 
Belgium made progress in lifting the veto of one of its region.

   EU President Donald Tusk told EU legislators Wednesday that "the summit 
tomorrow is still possible" after days of talks in Brussels between the 
national government and its regions seemed to be heading for a breakthrough.

   Belgium needs all its regions to sign on and the EU, in turn, needs 
unanimity among all its 28 states.

   Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was still ready to come over to 
Brussels for Thursday's summit and official signature of the deal.

   Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said during a break in talks on 
Wednesday that "all necessary documents" could be sent to EU officials later 
Wednesday for a final vetting among member states.

   Paul Magnette, the leader of Belgium's holdout region Wallonia, said that 
some details still need to be clarified, notably in the agriculture sector and 
a special dispute settlement court.

   Yet, the language he used was more conciliatory than the fundamental 
objections he had wielded until early this week.

   If there is no quick agreement from Wallonia, Thursday's EU-Canada summit 
could be scrapped.

   Politicians in Wallonia, which has a population of 3.6 million compared to 
over 500 million for the whole EU, argue that the proposed accord would 
undermine labor, environment and consumer standards.

   Proponents say it would yield billions in added trade through customs and 
tariff cuts and other measures to lower barriers to commerce. At the same time, 
the EU says it will keep in place the region's strong safeguards on social, 
environmental and labor issues.

   Magnette said a key hurdle was the issue of "private arbitration" in which 
multinationals can legally challenge governments on policies.

   He said Wallonia's insistence on a better deal would bolster EU standards 
and set a strong precedent for other trade talks between Europe and trading 
partners like the United States or Japan.


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