CETA free trade deal finally signed, but work is “just beginning”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed Canada’s free trade deal with the European Union Sunday, but not before recognizing that even though negotiations have gone on for nearly a decade, the challenges ahead to bring it fully into force are significant.

Trudeau said he hoped the so-called provisional application of the deal — approval only by the Canadian and European parliaments but not Europe’s 28 states and myriad regional governments — might happen within months.

One of the other impediments to the complete ratification of the agreement is the Brexit movement in Britain. It could mean a re-negotiations with Britain separately from the rest of Europe.

That, said Trudeau, would result in 98 per cent of the deal coming into force. That’s much higher than the 90-per cent estimate that most European and Canadian officials have said would accompany provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA, reported the Canadian Press.

Trudeau had initially expected to sign the deal in Brussels days ago, but the Belgian region of Wallonia nearly killed it because its opposition to the pact’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism gave it a veto under Belgium’s complicated constitution.

Following seven years of negotiating, Trudeau joined presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, and signed the massive 1,600-page pact and its accompanying strategic partnership agreement.

The road to full ratification remains long. After Trudeau and his EU counterparts took a moment Sunday to revel in the milestone, the prime minister was willing to acknowledge it would take more than ceremony to fully ratify the deal.

“The work is only just beginning right now,” Trudeau said.