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Touting trade

After shaking hands with Donald Trump, Trudeau touts a new trade deal between Canada and the EU

Trudeau touts a new trade deal between Canada and the EU

Amid the rise of right-wing populism and trade protectionism across the Western world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commended the European Parliament this morning for approving a trade agreement between Canada and the EU that took almost a decade to negotiate.

But he said the deal, poised to take effect in the context of both Brexit and President Donald Trump’s pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, may be the last of its kind.

“If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious future trade deals. If we are not, this could very well be one of the last,” Trudeau said from Strasbourg, France Thursday morning. “So make no mistake about it, this is an important moment.”

Europe’s parliament approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Wednesday by a margin of 408-253. The deal, initially brokered by Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor Stephen Harper, is projected to generate an estimated $12-billion for the Canadian economy, according to the Canadian government.

Canada exported around $40-billion to the EU in 2014, while importing $53-billion from the Eurozone that year. CETA would remove nearly all of the tariffs on both imports and exports between Canada and the EU, and could increase trade between the two markets by around 20 percent each year.

According to the Canadian Press, signing the deal would generate the equivalent economic activity of creating 80,000 new jobs or increasing the average household income by $1,000.

On Tuesday, Canada’s parliament voted to implement the deal.

The Conference Board of Canada’s chief economist Craig Alexander told the Canadian Press that “amid worries of U.S. protectionism, the opportunities CETA creates provide a shining example that international trade is not a zero-sum game.”

Canada’s International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne called CETA “good for workers, consumers and a new standard for trade.”

But CETA does have its critics.

The Corporate Europe Observatory — an organization that monitors corporate influence in the EU — called Europe’s CETA approval a sad day for democracy, according to the Associated Press. They say CETA doesn’t adequately protect workers rights, the environment, or public services including healthcare and water.

“A glimmer of hope now comes from the many national and regional parliaments across all of the EU that still have to ratify CETA. Each one of them can bring it to a halt,” the group’s trade policy campaigner Lora Verheecke said in a statement.

But Trudeau attempted to ease the tension of those who say trade pacts like CETA only benefit “society’s luckiest few.”

“The anxiety people have towards the economy and trade – the worry that our kids won’t have access to the same jobs and opportunities that we had – can be addressed only if we ensure that trade is inclusive, so that everyone benefits,” Trudeau said.

The Liberal government will likely approve CETA in a few months, clearing the way for 90 percent of the deal’s provisions to come into force. CETA then needs to clear the EU’s 28 member states before full ratification.  

Trudeau, who became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address Europe’s Parliament, also praised the EU as a model for peaceful cooperation.

“Canada knows that an effective European voice on the global stage isn’t just preferable – it’s essential.”

Cover: Patrick Seeger/EPA

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