Trudeau heads for France, Asia to boost trade ties

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - NATIONAL NEWS - JOR­DAN PRESS

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is set­ting off on a 10-day voy­age across Europe and Asia to pur­sue his oft-stated goal of find­ing mar­kets for Cana­dian goods and ser­vices be­yond the United States.

Trudeau trav­els first to France, then on to sum­mits with other world lead­ers in Sin­ga­pore and Pa­pua New Guinea, look­ing to push trade across the Pa­cific.

Ob­servers say Trudeau’s big­gest test will be in the last two stops.

Canada has shown re­peated in­ter­est in trad­ing with Asian na­tions on the Pa­cific Rim over the years, but has failed to make sus­tained progress in a re­gion where trade deals of­ten de­pend on per­sonal re­la­tion­ships.

In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Jim Carr will join Trudeau there, where he will have face-time with lead­ers from a 10-na­tion bloc known as the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) and then with a larger group of world lead­ers at the an­nual APEC lead­ers’ sum­mit.

“For a do­mes­tic au­di­ence, the prime min­is­ter and other min­is­ters will have to demon­strate that this trip ad­vances the trade di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion agenda in a sig­nif­i­cant way,” said Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, an in­de­pen­dent ap­pointed by Trudeau and an ex­pert on the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion.

“What our coun­ter­parts will want to hear is that Canada is not re­treat­ing into a fortress North Amer­ica with the sign­ing of NAFTA 2.0, that the trade di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion agenda is sin­cere and has teeth and re­sources and de­ter­mi­na­tion be­hind it.”

For­eign-pol­icy ex­perts who keep track of Canada’s trade in­ter­ests in Asia cau­tion that Trudeau is likely to re­turn home with a se­ries of project agree­ments rather than any ma­jor new trade treaties.

Com­bined, the ASEAN coun­tries would be Canada’s sixth-largest trad­ing part­ner and ex­ploratory free-trade talks with them are go­ing slowly — though some are in­cluded in a larger trade treaty with Pa­cific Rim coun­tries that Canada just rat­i­fied, mean­ing it will soon come into force.

Canada al­ready has a trade deal with Europe, most of which kicked in last year, elim­i­nat­ing tar­iffs on nu­mer­ous goods. But a small part of the deal still needs to be rat­i­fied by each mem­ber of the Eu­ro­pean Union.

For­mer Que­bec premier Jean Charest, who now spe­cial­izes in in­ter­na­tional busi­ness with law firm Mc­Carthy Te­trault, said if enough coun­tries ap­prove the re­main­ing por­tions, the deal be­comes ir­re­versible. A large player such as France, Ger­many or Italy would likely seal the deal.

The un­steady po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Italy and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s re­cent move to­ward re­tire­ment leave France as Canada’s only op­tion to nail down the agree­ment quickly be­fore Eu­ro­pean elec­tions in the spring, Charest said.

“If you get a new par­lia­ment that is voted and cam­paigned against this, then you’re in a new po­lit­i­cal zone,” Charest said. “Trudeau should be press­ing (French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel) Macron — who con­trols his ma­jor­ity in the na­tional assem­bly — to move ahead with this as rapidly as pos­si­ble.”

France’s am­bas­sador to Canada, Ka­reen Ris­pal, said it is bet­ter to let Euro­peans see the ben­e­fits of the deal, known by the acro­nym CETA, slowly in­stead of rush­ing into a de­bate about its mer­its be­fore the EU elec­tions.

Eu­ro­pean elec­tions of­ten turn into a protest vote and are “a call for all the pop­ulists,” Ris­pal said.

“It’s a very tricky cam­paign,” she said. “If we have CETA in the cam­paign, we think it’s not a good idea.”

Be­fore all the trade talk, Trudeau is to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War, first at Vimy Ridge on Satur­day where he will meet with vet­er­ans and tour the mon­u­ment built to memo­ri­al­ize the “War to End All Wars.”

JUSTIN TANG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau rises dur­ing Ques­tion Pe­riod in the House of Com­mons on Thurs­day. Trudeau is set­ting off on a 10-day voy­age across Asia and Europe to seek out new mar­kets for Cana­dian goods and ser­vices.

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