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CETA a bright light against a protectionist world: Freedland

International trade minister says agreement sets the tone for future talks with Washington.


OTTAWA — With the US presidential election looming, Canada’s international trade minister says she wants a new trade deal with Europe to showcase how strong trading relationships are better than building walls.

In hailing the Oct. 30 signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, Chrystia Freeland says she believes the agreement could set the tone for any future talks with a new administration in Washington.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has warned that he would renegotiate or even tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, and impose hefty tariffs on goods imported from outside the United States.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton hasn’t gone that far, but has also been critical of NAFTA.

Freeland says the protectionist rhetoric coming from south of the border – and indeed an anti-globalization movement worldwide – has her deeply concerned for Canada’s exporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended CETA as a deal that will provide immediate benefits to Canadians and Europeans, even though the agreement could be scrapped at any time before final ratification.

Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government is welcoming the signing of the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.

International Trade Minister Michael Chan said he was “thrilled” the accord has taken this “important step” toward implementation.

The deal still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as the myriad governments of the nations involved.

But Chan said lowering trade barriers between Canada and the EU will eventually result in the creation of 30,000 new Ontario jobs and a $4.5 billion boost to the province’s GDP.

He noted Ontario’s exports to European Union countries totalled more than $19 billion dollars last year, making the EU the province’s second largest trading partner. And he says Ontario will continue to work closely with the federal government to ensure the province gets the maximum benefit from CETA.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed hope that the so-called provisional application of the deal – approval only by the Canadian and European parliaments but not Europe’s 28 states and myriad regional governments – might happen within months.

That, said Trudeau, would result in 98% of the deal coming into force. That’s much higher than the 90% estimate that most European and Canadian officials have said would accompany provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA.

Trudeau had initially expected to sign the deal in Brussels days ago, but the restive Belgian region of Wallonia nearly killed it because its opposition to the pact’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism gave it a veto under Belgium’s complicated constitution.

After seven arduous years of negotiation, Trudeau joined presidents of the European Council and European Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, and signed the massive 1,600-page pact and its accompanying strategic partnership agreement.

The road to full ratification remains long. After Trudeau and his EU counterparts took a moment Oct. 30 to revel in the milestone, the prime minister was willing to acknowledge it would take more than ceremony to fully ratify the deal.

“The work is only just beginning right now,” Trudeau said. “It’s not just signing the accords, as difficult and important as that is. It’s about the followup, that we continue to demonstrate and give tools to small and medium sized businesses.”

The latest obstacle to CETA was removed Oct. 28 when Wallonia officially voted to withdraw its opposition to the deal, paving the way for Trudeau’s trip.

“The fact that throughout people were asking tough questions of a deal that will have a significant impact on our economies, and giving us the opportunity to demonstrate that that impact will be positive, is a good thing,” Trudeau said.

“That is what a democracy is: we need to have a whole chorus of different voices, able to share their concerns.”

Trudeau also praised the support he received from the government of Quebec’s Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard, who was in Brussels along with one of his predecessors, Jean Charest, one of CETA’s early boosters.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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