VIENNA Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said on Thursday many of his concerns about a free trade deal between the European Union and Canada had been addressed in an additional declaration, toning down his rhetoric days ahead of a vote on the deal in Brussels.
Social Democrat Kern has kept other countries guessing on whether Austria will give its approval for the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which many see as a blueprint for TTIP, an EU trade deal with the United States.
EU ministers in charge of trade, including Kern's Conservative coalition partner Reinhold Mitterlehner who is a supporter of CETA, are expected to vote on the deal on Oct. 18 before a planned signing at an EU-Canada summit on Oct. 27.
Kern reiterated in an ORF radio interview that his decision on whether to support CETA would depend to a large extent on a ruling by the German constitutional court on the accord expected on Thursday.
When asked whether a positive ruling would automatically remove pressure on an additional declaration which he had pushed for, Kern said:
"The additional text attempts to improve detailed regulation beyond (the ruling), which has been successful to a large degree already."
Kern's concerns include how far-reaching the decisions of investment tribunals created under the pact would be, adding he had asked legal experts to assess to what extent the declaration would be binding, although he seemed to soften his stance.
When asked whether he insisted on having a phrase in the text cementing its legally binding status, Kern said it depended on the experts' opinion and that the exact phrasing "is maybe a question of secondary importance".
In addition to uncertainty about Austria's vote on CETA, Southern Belgium is set to block the deal, while backing from Slovenia remains uncertain.
(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Nick Macfie)