Belgium is hoping to ratify a new trade agreement between Canada and the various members of the European Union within a year, says the country’s ambassador to Canada.
In an interview on this weekend’s edition of The West Block, Raoul Delcorde said he understands that Canada wants to see all the EU member states ratify CETA as quickly as possible.
“I want to be very reassuring in that respect,” Delcorde said.
“The ratification process in my country has already started … It’s just that in Belgium. It’s a rather long process, going through several parliaments, not one like in Canada. And therefore it might take time.”
The “general feeling,” he added, is that Belgium will give the go-ahead “hopefully within a year or so.”
The final text of CETA has already been approved for signature by the countries involved (Belgium was the last hold-out there, as well) and the European Parliament approved the deal last year. The treaty has provisionally eliminated almost all of the tariffs between Canada and the EU, but it must still be ratified by each national legislature.
New tariffs ‘upsetting’
Delcorde also addressed the recent imposition by the United States of new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The tariffs will apply to most nations, including those in Europe, but not to Canada or Mexico for the time being.
“This goes against the values we are defending,” the ambassador said.
“It’s indeed something which is upsetting for every European, but we will not react, I believe, before thoroughly examining the situation.”
European Union trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said on Friday that she would press for an EU exemption from the tariffs during a meeting with the Americans in Brussels on Saturday.
The trade turmoil comes just a few days before King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium are scheduled to arrive in Canada for a state visit.
The royal couple’s visit will focus heavily on the strong military ties between Canada and Belgium, Delcorde said, and will mark the closing of the centennial commemorations of World War I in both countries.
“Many Belgians really, from a young age, they know about how the Canadians supported us during the two world wars,” he said.
The last time a king of the Belgians came to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was prime minister.
The king and queen, who are not bringing their four children along, will also be stopping by a sugar shack.
“We wanted to have, as we say in French, la couleur locale,” Delcorde said.
— Watch the full interview with Ambassador Raoul Delcorde above.