The 28 member countries of the European Union on Friday approved a free trade deal with Canada hours after the parliament of Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region voted in favour of the agreement, the EU presidency has said in a statement.
The deal, commonly known as CETA, or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, has been dubbed a milestone which is hoped will boost EU-Canada trade by 20 percent.
The EU is Canada’s second-largest trading partner, with trade volume between the country and the union worth 63.5 billion euros in 2015, according to official figures.
"I am delighted to confirm that the EU is ready to sign the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada," Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, which currently holds the EU presidency, said.
"It represents a milestone in the EU's trade policy and our commitment to it," he added.
— EU2016SK (@eu2016sk) October 28, 2016
The announcement came shortly after Belgian regional parliaments approved the deal, clearing the way for the EU to sign the pact after two weeks of fraught talks that threatened the bloc's credibility.
Lawmakers for the region of Wallonia, which led resistance to the accord, voted 58 for and five against after other Belgian politicians dealt with their concerns in weeks of tough negotiations.
CETA must be signed and then ratified by the parliaments of all 28 EU member states, and in some cases – as in that of Belgium – by their regional governments.
The agreement could partially enter into force next year, some eight years after talks began, as long as the European Parliament also votes in favour.
European Council President Donald Tusk said that the EU and Canada will hold a summit on Sunday to sign the deal.
Mission accomplished! Just agreed with PM @JustinTrudeau to hold EU-Canada Summit this Sunday
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 28, 2016
The summit will be held in Brussels and the signing ceremony will take place at midday, a spokesman for the European Council added.