Canadian PM’s trade agenda positions Canada as global dealmaker

By , on February 19, 2017


For Canada, that appears to be more of a "renovation of NAFTA" rather than a "brand-new" agreement, which Trump mentioned as possibilities in a meeting with U.S. lawmakers earlier this month. (Photo: Gavin St. Ours/ Flickr)
For Canada, that appears to be more of a “renovation of NAFTA” rather than a “brand-new” agreement, which Trump mentioned as possibilities in a meeting with U.S. lawmakers earlier this month. (Photo: Gavin St. Ours/ Flickr)

OTTAWA –The best-selling book The Art of the Deal has helped make American businessman Donald Trump a household name and outlined his approach to business success, which included such guidance as “think big,” “use your leverage” and “get the word out.”

Thirty years later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – just a teenager at the time the future U.S. president’s book was published in 1987 – is now employing those tips in positioning Canada as a major global trading partner.

He left his first face-to-face meeting with Trump in Washington on Monday with the Canada-U.S. dynamic maintained within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The protectionist U.S. president told the pro-trade Canadian prime minister – and the reporters gathered at their joint news conference, that they would be doing certain things “that are going to benefit both of our countries.”

For Canada, that appears to be more of a “renovation of NAFTA” rather than a “brand-new” agreement, which Trump mentioned as possibilities in a meeting with U.S. lawmakers earlier this month.

That reassurance signaled the importance of cross-border trade between both countries, and gave Trudeau a political bounce as he traveled abroad later in the week to welcome a no-less significant free trade deal with the European Union.

In the first speech by a Canadian prime minister to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Thursday, Trudeau said that if the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is successful, “CETA will become the blueprint for all ambitious future trade deals.” If not, he said, “this could well be one of the last.”

European parliamentarians voted to approve CETA on Wednesday – the day after members of the Canadian House of Commons passed legislation to implement the trade agreement, which is now before the Senate where it is expected to pass and become law.

Once the 38 national and regional parliaments in the EU ratify CETA, the agreement will eliminate virtually all of tariffs on Canadian exports to the EU and provide the country with access to more than 500 million consumers in the European market with a gross domestic product, based on purchasing power parity, of about 19 trillion U.S. dollars. It will also, in Trudeau’s view, help grow the middle class on both sides of the Atlantic – a message he also delivered during his visit to Washington D.C. earlier in the week.

CETA sends another message to Trump through a statement from European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström following the historic European parliamentary vote on Wednesday. “By building bridges rather than walls, we can face the challenges that confront our societies together,” she said.

“In these uncertain times, with rising protectionism around the world, CETA underlines our strong commitment to sustainable trade.”

Europe is counting on Canada to serve as a key bridge-builder, as the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani said at a joint news conference with Trudeau on Thursday. “It’s easier for the Canadians speak to the Americans,” said Tajani, who believes Trudeau’s Monday meeting with Trump “paved the way for better relations” between the EU and the U.S.

That’s crucial for the EU if it ever hopes to revive a free trade deal with the U.S. after Trump canceled negotiations, particularly if Trudeau can make inroads with the U.S. president whom he said in Strasbourg on Thursday that is “demonstrating that good relations with one’s neighbors is a great way of getting things done.”

But the prime minister’s Liberal government is looking beyond NAFTA and CETA to establish trade agreements with China, India and Japan.

“This is the year of trade,”Canadian International Trade Minister Frnçois-Philippe Champagne told reporters here last Friday. “People want to do trade with Canada because Canada stands out for progressive trade, having provisions that deal with worker rights and the environment.