STRASBOURG: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday hailed a new trade pact with the European Union, telling the EU parliament that the deal they approved this week will create jobs and boost the middle class on both sides of the Atlantic.
In his address, the first by a Canadian leader to the European parliament, Trudeau said that "trade that is free and fair means that we can make the lives of our citizens more affordable."
He presented the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement as a "blue-print" for future trade deals and the outcome of Europe's and Canada's shared history and values.
The deal was approved Wednesday amid strong opposition from free-trade critics who fear it gives too much power to multinationals. They hope that it will be blocked by national and regional parliaments in the EU even after its provisional entry into force foreseen for April.
Trudeau sought to allay their concerns, stressing that "trade needs to work for people" and that the agreement aims to do just that and includes provisions that will allow governments to protect their citizens and workforce.
"If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals," he said. "If we are not, this could very well be one of the last."
The deal removes barriers on all traded goods and services, with a few restrictions for agricultural products and in the sectors of audiovisual, transport and public services.
The trade agreement connects markets of 500 million Europeans with 35 million Canadians. If fully implemented, it could boost trade between the two by 20 percent from its 2015 level of 63.5 euros.
Backers of the deal hailed it as victory of openness over protectionism and stagnation at a time when many, including the U.S. administration, are heading that way. It comes at a time when populist movements are on the rise making the future of the EU uncertain.
Trudeau's address came just days after he met U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House.
"My message Monday in Washington is the same as my message here in Strasbourg," Trudeau told journalists. "We have to work as governments and in between governments to create jobs for the middle class. and opportunities for those trying to join them."
While the Canadian prime minister acknowledged there may be differences in perspectives on how to approach that and denounced the politics of fear at a time of great anxiety across the world, he made no criticism of Trump. "What I saw from the American president, was a focus on getting things done," he said.
Trudeau's visit to Washington also focused on trade and ended on a relatively positive note, with Trump hailing the U.S. relationship with Canada as outstanding and suggesting only a few tweaks would be made to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trudeau is expected to continue his pro-trade campaign with an address to business leaders Friday in Germany.