BRUSSELS – Lawmakers in the Belgian region holding up an important new trade pact between the European Union and Canada have officially given their approval for the deal to go through.
The parliamentarians in the French-speaking region of Wallonia voted Friday by 58 votes for to 5 against, with no abstentions, to support the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Regional parliament president Andre Antoine said that “Europe must also pass by Wallonia.”
Smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey, Wallonia blocked the deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians for several weeks, deeply embarrassing the bloc.
The EU needed unanimity among all its 28 members and Belgium needed the backing of all its regions to approve the pact.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been due to sign CETA with EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday, but was forced to cancel his flight.
WATCH: CETA saved from failure by last-minute agreement from Belgium
Work on the agreement was launched in 2009 and the text was actually finalized two years ago but sat in limbo awaiting endorsement.
Antoine thanked the lawmakers for working in “real democratic transparency.”
“This closes two years of work,” he said after voting finished.
Politicians in Wallonia had argued that the proposed deal would undermine labor, environment and consumer standards and allow multinationals to crush local companies. Supporters said it would yield billions in added trade through customs and tariff cuts.
© 2016 The Canadian Press