European Union, Canada sign free trade agreement

BRUSSELS, Canada and the 28-member nations of the European Union signed a free trade deal after seven years of negotiations.

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The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, required all EU members to approve it. Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region originally vetoed the agreement but an addendum Friday addressed concerns that Belgian farmers will be forced to compete against Canadian imports.

And the deal’s signing was delayed several hours from 11 a.m. local time because Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plane had to turn back to Ottawa airport after experiencing “mechanical issues” shortly after take-off.

“Canadians and Europeans share the understanding that in order for real and meaningful economic growth, we need to create more good, well-paying jobs for our citizens,” Trudeau said. “Progressive trade agreements like the one signed today, will do just that.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called it “a new chapter” in relations between the EU and Canada.

“All’s well that ends well,” he said.

The deal removes 99 percent of tariffs and officials hope it will increase in trade $12 billion a year as Canada has a new economic outlet with 500 million Europeans.

The deal still requires the ratification of a majority of the 751 members of the EU Parliament from the 28 EU member states.

It is the EU’s first trade pact with a G7 country. And Canada’s agreement is seen as part of an EU deal with the United States, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty, which has been opposed by labor unions and environment groups. Talks are on hold until a new U.S. president takes office in January.

By Allen Cone