Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised the European Union Thursday for approving the long-discussed free-trade deal with Canada, but warned the agreement is at risk of becoming the world’s last major trade pact.
Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Mr. Trudeau argued that the pressure is now on both sides to show that such trade deals produce real benefit for citizens.
The Prime Minister’s speech comes one day after the EU Parliament gave its final vote of approval to the deal. The House of Commons in Ottawa also voted this week to approve it. A final Senate vote is expected soon.
After eight years of formal negotiations, the vast majority of the provisions in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are poised to take effect within weeks.
“With CETA, together we have built something. Something important. Especially at this moment, on your continent and mine,” Mr. Trudeau told the EU Parliament.
The Prime Minister’s comment is in reference to the recent rise of populist movements that have gained support by attacking free-trade agreements. This was seen in last year’s Brexit vote in support of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU and Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign in the United States.
“Now we need to make it work, for your people and mine,” said Mr. Trudeau. “If we are successful, CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals. If we are not, this could well be one of the last. So make no mistake about it, this is an important moment.”
The European Parliament approved CETA in a 408 to 254 vote this week and that division was largely reflected in the attendance for Mr. Trudeau’s speech. There were more than 200 empty seats in the 751-seat Parliament as the Prime Minister spoke, though the visitors’ gallery that rings the circular room was full.
Mr. Trudeau’s trip to Strasbourg follows his visit Monday to Washington for a first face-to-face meeting with President Trump. Trade was also high on the agenda there, given that Mr. Trump’s campaign platform called for a renegotiation of the North American free-trade agreement.
Mr. Trump said Monday that his administration was only looking to “tweak” NAFTA with respect to Canada. Speaking alongside Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Trump said his main concern was with Mexico, not Canada.
“It is a much less severe situation than what is taking place on the southern border,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump’s NAFTA comments raised immediate concern in Mexico. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox spoke out on Twitter, where he has been a frequent critic of the U.S. President.
“NAFTA is a three-way deal,” he wrote. “You cannot go suck Justin’s boots up and try to kick Mexico out.”
Mr. Trudeau’s office confirmed that the day he met with Mr. Trump, the Prime Minister spoke by phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders “discussed the Canada-Mexico bilateral relationship, including trade within the North American context.”
Speaking with reporters after his speech, Mr. Trudeau dismissed a suggestion that his message in Europe is more critical of protectionism than what he had to say when he was in Washington.
“The conversations I had in Washington and the conversations I have here in Strasbourg are anchored in exactly the same thing: a recognition that governments need to do better at creating growth and opportunity for all our citizens,” he said.
“Any time we’re engaging with a different country or coming at it with a difference in perspectives, perhaps differences in ideologies, but when we can agree that our ultimate goal is helping our citizens, allaying the fears that they are experiencing by creating jobs and opportunities for them and their kids.”
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who played an early role in the free-trade talks with the EU, was in Strasbourg for Mr. Trudeau’s speech. He said the adoption of CETA sends a clear message to populist politicians such as Mr. Trump.
“What is happening in the world is this element of populism that has taken hold everywhere and Mr. Trump is the biggest example of that,” he said Thursday. “And so [CETA]’s another vision of our future. One that is based on common values, what we have in common, working together as opposed to isolating ourselves.”Report Typo/Error