The European Union and Canada signed Sunday a landmark trade pact, reports the AP, ending days of drama after a small Belgian region refused to endorse the agreement and deeply embarrassed the EU. The long-delayed Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement was bedeviled by yet another hold up overnight when Canadian PM Justin Trudeau's plane had to return to Ottawa because of mechanical issues. "What patience," exclaimed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as he embraced the arriving Trudeau at EU headquarters in Brussels. Trudeau said "difficult things are difficult, but we were able to succeed." Trudeau and Juncker signed the pact with European Council President Donald Tusk and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The EU needed unanimity among all its 28 members and Belgium needed the backing of all its regions to approve the pact. Trudeau had been due to sign CETA on Thursday, but was forced to cancel his flight when the country could not sign on because of opposition from the Wallonia region. After several rounds of talks late into the night Belgium formally gave its endorsement on Saturday morning. Smaller than New Jersey, Wallonia region blocked the deal between more than 500 million EU citizens and 35 million Canadians for several weeks. The delay raised troubling questions about the EU's ability to seal big trade agreements. Work on a similar pact with the United States dubbed TTIP barely advanced this year. "There is no realism in concluding TTIP right now," the EU trade commissioner said Sunday, noting the US election. (Read more free trade agreements stories.)