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Chrystia Freeland sees ‘very tough’ mood in Europe for trade deals

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of international trade, speaks during the International Economic Forum Of The Americas conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.

James MacDonald/Bloomberg

Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said free trade deals face "very tough" times in Europe and the U.S. as she welcomed a vote of support by Germany's Social Democrats for the European Union's proposed accord with Canada.

Freeland plans to join her EU counterparts in the Slovak capital of Bratislava on Friday to try to clear up differences over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, amid resistance to the accord in many EU countries, foremost in Germany.

"The story is very tough right now for trade and I would say for the idea of an open global economy overall," Freeland said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin on Tuesday. She cited "the rise of sometimes quite ugly, protectionist anti-globalization sentiment in Europe -- we're seeing a lot of those feelings being expressed in the U.S. election campaign."

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German Social Democratic Party head Sigmar Gabriel faced down CETA opponents and won support for the accord in a party vote on Monday after pledging that the deal would meet the party's criteria. The Social Democrats are part of Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition.

"That was an important moment," Freeland said. "So, thank you very much, Germany."

As many as 320,000 protesters marched in seven German cities on Saturday to oppose CETA and the proposed U.S.-EU trade accord, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. Opponents argue the accords will cost thousands of jobs, promote industrial agriculture and lower standards.

CETA would cut trade barriers between the EU's market of more than 500 million people and Canada, the world's 10th-biggest economy last year according to the World Bank. Canada has said the 1,600-page agreement concluded in 2014 is final, though both sides are drafting a statement to clarify how some provisions will be carried out.

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