The CETA will eliminate 98% of tariffs, allowing for the free flow of goods between the EU and Canada

The CETA will eliminate 98% of tariffs, allowing for the free flow of goods between the EU and Canada

The European Union and Canada have finally signed a free trade agreement that will remove most import duties between the two.

However, while the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could come into force partially early next year, full implementation will only happen with the approval of nearly 40 national and regional parliaments – a process that may take years.

The treaty, which was agreed in principle in 2014, was almost derailed at the last minute by objections from Belgium's southern Wallonia region.

European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the signing marks "a new chapter in the relationship" between Canada and the European Union. "More than half a billion people on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy new opportunities. For many people, it will mean new jobs and better jobs."

By removing import duties on almost products, CETA stands to benefit the EU textile sector, on which Canada currently imposes duties of up to 18%.

When the CETA was agreed two years ago, just-style was told it had the potential to increase the EU's garment exports to Canada by more than 91%.

The agreement removes non-tariff barriers and provides zero duties for textile and clothing products from first day of entry into force.

But the Brussels-based European Apparel and Textile Confederation (Euratex) has expressed concerns that for 15 clothing products, certain safeguards defining when a product can be deemed made in the EU or Canada have been weakened.

Clothing concerns raised over EU-Canada trade pact 

Importantly, the Canada agreement is also seen as a springboard to a larger Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the United States.

But the delay in concluding the CETA has also raised concerns about the challenges Britain is likely to face in negotiating a trade agreement with the EU.