Fresh off his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was back on the world stage this week to promote his pro-trade agenda in Strasbourg, France on Thursday.
Trudeau brought European lawmakers to their feet in a standing ovation with a rousing speech that highlighted the benefits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union. It was the first time a Canadian prime minister has addressed the European Parliament and Trudeau used the opportunity to praise the ratification of CETA by the EU the day before.
Ian Lee, a professor at the Sprout School of Business at Carleton University, called the moment “monumental” and said he agreed with Trudeau’s comments to the European Parliament on the advantages of CETA for both Canada and the EU.
‘The better deal’
“We are all benefiting from this,” Lee told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. “I actually personally think that we’ve got the better deal out of it because we’re getting access to over 500 million people. They’re only getting access to the 35 or 36 million of us.”
Once it’s implemented, the trade agreement would remove 98 per cent of tariffs on goods traded between Canada and the EU. Lee acknowledged that many Canadians, such as auto workers and dairy farmers, have been vehemently opposed to CETA because it will create competition at home.
“Any trade agreement liberalizes the rules of the game. That’s all it is,” Lee explained.
Lee said that despite resistance from select groups in Canada who favour protectionist policies against foreign competition, CETA will be beneficial for Canadian consumers overall.
‘Winners and losers’
“There are winners and losers but on balance, trade leads to enhanced standard of living prosperity on both sides,” he said.
Lee also suggested that Canadian beef and pork producers should celebrate the trade deal because it will allow them increased access to the European Union, Canada’s second largest trading partner after the United States and the world’s largest economy.
“The benefits to us, I think, are going to be very clear in the years going forward,” Lee said. “It’s going to generate more jobs and create more opportunities.”
Lee commended Trudeau for providing leadership to close the deal, particularly when it seemed like it might unravel last fall when a region in Belgium expressed opposition to it, but he also wanted to give former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government credit for doing all of the “heavy lifting and hard work” to negotiate CETA .
‘A unique juncture’
With the election of Trump and his protectionist rhetoric, Lee said Canada is now in a unique position on the world stage. He said Europeans confused by Trump’s leadership will look to Canada, America’s close friend and ally, to explain what’s happening and demonstrate how to work with the new U.S. administration.
“We are at a unique juncture,” Lee said. “We are seen as the straight-shooter, the honest broker that can broker and explain Europe to the Americans and the Americans to Europe.”
Lee said he couldn’t recall a time in his lifetime when Canada’s stature in the world has been so important.
“This is all very good news for Canada. This has been a very good week for Canada,” Lee said.