BRUSSELS, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Friday that he hoped the issues blocking a free-trade deal between the European Union (EU) and Canada would be settled in the next few days despite a Belgian region opposing the deal.
Leaders from the 28 member states of the bloc were expected to reach an agreement on approving the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on the second day of the EU summit, which kicked off on Thursday.
However, due to continued opposition from Belgium, the deal has been thrown into disarray.
"I hope that we will be able to see an agreed settlement in a few days, with the Wallonians, our friends," Juncker told a press conference after the second day of EU summit.
The Belgian region of Wallonia is blocking the ratification of the deal over social and environmental concerns.
To ratify the EU-Canada deal, EU member states need to approve three draft decisions: provisional application, signature, and conclusion of CETA. Although all three documents are formally subject to a qualified majority vote, consensus will be required.
According to local media reports, Wallonia was still resisting pressure to back the EU-Canada trade deal on Friday morning. The region's leader Paul Magnette said "difficulties remain" for the region to sign the deal.
The French-speaking area in southern Belgium fears local workers will be laid off if the agreement leads to cheaper farming and industrial imports.
Juncker said Wallonia's problem with CETA is "not technical or substantial but political." He expressed hope to find a solution in the coming few days as he called CETA "the best trade agreement" the EU has ever negotiated.
Encouragingly, Romania dropped its opposition to the deal during the summit after securing visa-free access to Canada for its citizens.
"We are in a position to withdraw our reservations against CETA," Romanian President Klaus Johannis said Friday in Brussels.
Starting from Dec. 1, 2017, Romanians will be able to enter Canada without visas.
The trade deal with Canada could be the bloc's last free trade agreement if it fails, warned European Council President Donald Tusk.
EU's trade policy chief Cecilia Malmstrom tweeted on Friday saying the European Commission is undergoing intensive talks with Wallonia on CETA.
Noting the EU and Canada are trying to find a way forward, Malmstrom said she hopes solutions will be found as soon as possible.
Despite the uncertainty, the EU and Canada are still determined to hold a summit in Brussels on Oct. 27, when they hope to formally sign CETA.
The EU-Canada free trade deal was reached in August 2014 after five years of negotiations, aiming to eliminate 98 percent of tariffs between the two sides. It has been opposed by various groups, including environmental activists, trade unionists and socialists.