Canada, Europe hail trade pact in Trump era
Lawmakers in Canada and Europe are hailing Wednesday’s approval of the Canada-EU free trade deal by the European Parliament as a win for the values of openness in the face of anti-trade movements, including the Donald Trump administration.
The legislature in Strasbourg, France, approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement by a margin of 408-254, with 33 abstentions. The vote clears a major hurdle for the deal that saw its first round of bargaining almost eight years ago and has had to overcome mounting anti-trade populism in Europe.
Canada’s Parliament is also expected to ratify the deal in the coming months, which means 90 per cent of it would come into force under provisional application — a key procedural step that allows the deal to take effect without the ratification of the European Union’s 28 member countries and numerous regional governments.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was en route to France to deliver his own protrade message in an address Thursday to the European Parliament, a first for a Canadian leader, and to speak to top business leaders a day later in Germany.
On his way into a caucus meeting earlier Wednesday, Trudeau sang the praises of the deal as evidence of the merits of globalization.
“I think it’s an illustration that when you put forward a progressive trade deal that takes into account the responsibility of governments to create good middle-class jobs, create inclusive growth — not just for a few, but for everyone — (and) that focuses on the middle class, we can move forward on globalization.”
International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who was already in Strasbourg ahead of the vote, called it “the right deal at the right time.”
“Good for workers, consumers and a new standard for trade.”
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom took direct aim at anti-globalization forces in remarks to Parliament, in what appeared to be a thinly veiled rebuttal to Trump’s protectionist and anti-immigration policies.
“With Canada we share the democratic values of tolerance and openness,” Malmstrom said. “We cooperate in tackling common challenges such as migration, sustainable development, climate change and terrorism.”
CETA, as well as its companion strategic partnership agreement, would strengthen not only Canada-EU economic relations but our “geopolitical alliance ... making that partnership deeper and more powerful, reaffirming our fundamental values, political principles, and using them to shape globalization.”
The deal will help each side “serve its citizens” in the 21st century, Malmstrom added.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose government opened the long negotiations that led to the agreement, welcomed the European vote with a tweet: “Pleased to finally see the Europeans ratify our CETA free-trade deal,” he wrote. “Good news for Canada and the Canadian economy.”
Ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, one of the most ardent promoters of the freetrade deal from the outset, said Trump’s protectionist tendencies and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union made the signature of the agreement all that more important.