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EU’s free trade deal on life support

World trade growth weakest in 25 years

A huge free trade deal between Europe and Canada is on the brink of collapse.

Canadian negotiators walked away from last-minute talks Friday without resolving objections raised by a small EU regional government, leading the country’s trade minister to openly question whether Europe is capable of reaching a deal.

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“Canada has worked very hard. I have worked very hard,” Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Wallonia, Belgium. “But it seems to me that the European Union is not capable of having an international agreement, not even with a country that has European values like Canada, not even with a country so nice and patient as Canada.”

The trade deal, known as CETA, has been under negotiation for seven years. EU leaders have voiced unanimous support, saying the deal would provide a boost to Europe’s flagging economy.

Related: Brexit is becoming a big fat mess

canada trade minister
Canada’s trade minister Chrystia Freeland.

But one regional government, Wallonia, has stood in the way of ratification. The French-speaking region of Belgium has raised concerns over the role of multinational companies based in Canada, and their ability to access Europe’s market.

“Canada is disappointed. Me, personally, I am disappointed,” a visibly frustrated Freeland told reporters. “I worked really, really hard, but I believe it’s impossible.”

“We are returning home,” she added.

It was not immediately clear whether talks would resume. If the deal is not resurrected, fresh questions will be raised over whether Europe is a reliable trade partner at a time of rising political opposition to globalism.

A free trade agreement between the United States and Europe, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, has also stalled amid growing political opposition.

And future deals, including with Britain after its vote to leave the EU, would be very much in doubt.

Related: Top German official says EU-U.S. free trade talks have failed

The EU signaled that it would attempt to revive negotiations with Canada.

“The European Commission doesn’t consider that this is the end of the process,” a commission source told CNNMoney.

— Chris Liakos and Laura Goehler contributed reporting.

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