International

Canada PM says world needs EU, lauds model of cooperation

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to deliver a speech at a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on February 16, 2017, a day after MEPs backed the CETA during a vote. / AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN

STRASBOURG: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the European Union Thursday as an unprecedented model for peaceful cooperation, in a speech to EU lawmakers that contrasted sharply with the critical stance of U.S. President Donald Trump. Speaking to the European Parliament a day after it backed a comprehensive free trade deal between Canada and the EU known as CETA, Trudeau said the 28-nation bloc had a crucial global role to play.

By contrast, U.S. President Donald Trump has questioned the value and future of the EU and has applauded Britain’s shock decision to leave the bloc.

“You are a vital player in addressing the challenges that we collectively face as an international community ... Indeed the whole world benefits from a strong EU,” Trudeau told delighted EU lawmakers in his speech, delivered in English and French.

Canada and the EU share a belief in democracy, transparency and the rule of law, human rights, inclusion and diversity, said Trudeau, who is also due to visit Germany on his European tour.

“We know that, in these times, we must choose to lead the international economy, not simply be subject to its whims,” he added.

With the passage of their trade deal, Canada and the EU offer a counter to Trump, who has left the Trans-Pacific Partnership and wants to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump told Trudeau in talks in Washington Monday that the United States would only be “tweaking” its trade ties with Canada.

For Canada, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the EU is important to reduce its reliance on the neighbouring United States as an export market.

For the EU, it is a first trade pact with a G-7 country and a timely success after Britain’s vote to leave the bloc last year harmed its credibility. Brexit supporters want to focus more on reviving trade with former British colonies, including Canada.

“We are in a globalized world and how we make sure that we are turning that into opportunities for small businesses and our citizens is the challenge of our time,” the Canadian prime minister said.

Trump got elected partly by those who felt opportunities were slipping away, fearing for themselves and their children, Trudeau said, anxieties shared by people in Canada and Europe.

“Hopefully this spring the vast majority of the provisions of CETA are going to start impacting small business, workers, consumers. People will immediately begin to see the tangible benefits that come from trade deals such as this one.”

Both Canada and the EU have to ensure that CETA, set to come into force in months, worked.

“If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals. If we are not, this could very well be the last. So make no mistake, this is an important moment for us.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 17, 2017, on page 5.

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