Trudeau, Valls tout EU-Canada trade pact

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 3:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 3:31am

The prime ministers of Canada and France on Thursday called for the EU to endorse a trade pact with Canada, or, according to Justin Trudeau, risk sending the wrong message to the world.

Canadian and European leaders are scheduled to meet in Brussels to formally sign the so-called CETA free trade deal at a summit on October 27.

“If in a week or two we see that Europe is unable to sign a progressive trade agreement with a country like Canada, well, then with whom will Europe think that it can do business in the years to come?” Trudeau warned after a meeting with his French counterpart Manuel Valls.

Rejection of the trade pact, he said, would send “a very clear message not just to Europeans but to the whole world that Europe is choosing a path that is not productive.”

All 28 EU member states must ratify the agreement in order for it to come into effect next year.

“It is a win-win agreement for workers, for our agriculture industry, for the environment and for public services,” commented Valls.

Earlier Thursday, a German court cleared the way for Berlin to provisionally sign on to the pact.

European activists, however, have been seeking to block the free trade deal, and opposition by the French-speaking Wallonia region of Belgium could still sink it.

Trudeau touted CETA as setting “a new standard” for international trade agreements, while suggesting its rejection would lead to the inevitable existential question being raised: “What’s the point of the EU?”

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“We live in an open world and it would be inconceivable for the EU to not sign onto a good agreement with Canada,” echoed Valls, contrasting the Canada-EU deal with a proposed EU-US trade pact still under negotiation and which France “strongly opposes.”

Valls noted that under CETA, Canada has agreed to respect geographical indications for 42 French foods. Under this clause, for example, Canadian cheese makers could no longer use terms such as Asiago, Feta, and Gorgonzola to describe their products since they are not made in those regions for which the original products were named.

The EU is Canada’s second-largest trading partner currently, behind the United States, while Canada ranks 12th on the EU’s list of partners.

“There’s room for improvement on both sides,” Valls said, adding that France wishes to act as Canada’s gateway into Europe -- a role held by Britain before it voted in June to leave the bloc.

“There has never been a better opportunity to renew the bilateral relationship,” he said.