Canada, Europe cheer trade deal

Law­mak­ers hail deal as coun­ter­mea­sure to iso­la­tion­ism


OT­TAWA — 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 pro-trade mes­sage in an ad­dress Thurs­day to the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, a first for a Cana­dian leader, and 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 mid­dle­class 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 antiglob­al­iza­tion 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. We co-op­er­ate in tack­ling com­mon chal­lenges such as mi­gra­tion, sus­tain­able devel­op­ment, cli­mate change and ter­ror­ism,” Malm­strom said.

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 free­trade deal,” he wrote. “Good news for Canada and the Cana­dian econ­omy.”

The Con­fer­ence Board of Canada called the agree­ment good for both sides, since eco­nomic his­tory demon­strates that greater free move­ment of goods, ser­vices and peo­ple is a cat­a­lyst for eco­nomic growth.

“Amid wor­ries of U.S. pro­tec­tion­ism, the op­por­tu­ni­ties CETA cre­ates pro­vide a shin­ing ex­am­ple that in­ter­na­tional trade is not a ze­ro­sum game,” said Craig Alexan­der, the board’s chief econ­o­mist.

Trudeau will bol­ster the mer­its of “the pro­gres­sive trade agenda” when he speaks to EU law­mak­ers on Thurs­day, Cham­pagne said in an in­ter­view.

“Canada is in a unique po­si­tion to show that trade is good for peo­ple and I think we’re go­ing to make that case across the world.”

Politi­cians need to do more to sell the mer­its of free trade to an in­creas­ingly skep­ti­cal pub­lic, but the deal will also sell it­self once it is fully rat­i­fied, he added.

“When peo­ple see in prac­tice what it means for them, I would think that over time peo­ple will see the ben­e­fits.”

Crit­ics of the deal “may be philo­soph­i­cally driven, just be­ing against any trade,” Cham­pagne noted.

Case in point: Maude Bar­low, chair of the Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans and an ar­dent free-trade critic, said groups such as hers would con­tinue to op­pose the deal.

“Euro­pean op­po­si­tion to CETA is strong and 38 na­tional and re­gional par­lia­ments still have to rat­ify the deal,” Bar­low said in a state­ment. “Ref­er­en­dums, le­gal chal­lenges, elec­tions and other ob­sta­cles still stand in the way of im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

CETA was nearly killed last Oc­to­ber when the re­gional gov­ern­ment in Bel­gium’s Wal­lo­nia re­gion al­most ve­toed the deal.

Another anti-trade group, the Cor­po­rate Europe Observatory, called Wed­nes­day’s vote a sad day for democ­racy.

“The mo­bi­liza­tion against CETA has been one of the strong­est Euro­pean democ­racy move­ments ever,” the group’s trade pol­icy cam­paigner Lora Verheecke said in a state­ment. “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.”

Wed­nes­day’s vote should close the drawn-out ap­proval process across the 28 mem­ber states, where some gov­ern­ments and leg­is­la­tures had tried to mod­ify or scup­per the deal. The Nether­lands could still block it if it de­mands an ad­vi­sory na­tional ref­er­en­dum on the deal.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau boards a gov­ern­ment plane in Ot­tawa, Wed­nes­day. Trudeau is fly­ing to France and Ger­many where he will ad­dress the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and meet with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

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