EU, Canada sign long-delayed free-trade agreement

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the pact “the most comprehensive, ambitious and progressive trade agreement ever negotiated by either Canada or the European Union.”

The European Union and Canada signed a long-delayed trade deal on Sunday, formally ending a contentious approval process that threatened to derail the bloc’s entire trade agenda.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, which was concluded in February after seven years of negotiations, is the first such agreement the European bloc has negotiated with another major industrialised economy.

It is seen by many EU officials as a model for future economic agreements with the bloc’s other large trade partners—including the likely one with the U.K. once it leaves the EU.

“By scrapping almost all import duties, European exporters of industrial and agricultural goods will save up to €500 million [$549 million] every year,” Mr. Juncker said.

The formal agreement is a welcome boost for the EU, where growing anti-globalization sentiment has weakened public support for the 28-country bloc’s trade policy.

Still, the EU’s struggle to complete the agreement has raised doubts about its ability to negotiate similarly ambitious accords in the future, especially as talks with the U.S. on a trade and investment pact are faltering.

The trade pact had been on thin ice in recent weeks after opposition from a Belgian region kept the country—and the EU—from backing the deal. But after talks among the country’s leadership, regions and the EU, Belgium gathered the required support for the deal on Friday.

CETA aims to revoke roughly 9,000 tariffs, covering many industrial goods and agricultural and food items, including beef and fish. It also promises to open up competition in the services sector, including in banking and insurance.

Canada has aggressively pursued the trade agreement with the EU in a bid to boost its tepid outlook for growth as its economy has been hit hard by the commodity-price swoon.

The deal can be applied provisionally once the European Parliament also ratifies it in December. But for it to be fully put in place, it will have to be ratified by the EU’s more than 30 national and regional parliaments.

Provisional implementation will include all aspects of the deal relating to trade, whereas a controversial court to settle investment disputes between states and companies would only take effect with full implementation.