Canada and EU break through globalisation gloom to sign trade deal

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, signs the trade deal with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council president Donald Tusk, right. Photo: AP

 

Brussels: The European Union and Canada signed a far-reaching trade agreement on Sunday that commits them to opening their markets to greater competition, after overcoming a last-minute political obstacle that reflected the growing scepticism toward globalisation in much of the developed world.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been forced to call off an earlier trip to sign the deal after Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, used its veto to withhold Belgian approval of the deal. The pact required the support of all 28 signatory countries.

Mr Trudeau signed the pact on Sunday, joined by Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, which represents the leaders of the member states; Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency of the body that runs the bloc’s ministerial meetings; and Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

The deal will help to demonstrate that “trade is good for the middle class and those working hard to join it”, Mr Trudeau said at a news conference in Brussels. Mr Trudeau said he wanted to “make sure that everyone gets that this is a good thing for our economies but it’s also a good example to the world”.

But the Walloons’ intransigence has underlined the extent to which trade has become politically radioactive as citizens increasingly blame globalisation for growing disparities in wealth and living standards. Across Europe and the US, opposition to trade has become a rallying point for populist movements on the left and the right, threatening to upend the established political order.

A compromise among the regions of Belgium, which persuaded Wallonia to drop its veto, called for language to clarify the handling of trade complaints brought by Canadian or European companies.

Belgium pledged to refer the arbitration system to the Court of Justice of the EU, where judges can assess its legality.

Nonetheless, several dozen anti-trade activists held a rowdy protest on Sunday outside the building where Mr Trudeau signed the pact, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The protesters splashed red paint on the forecourt of the building and condemned a planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between Europe and the US.

That much larger deal, known as TTIP, has already stalled amid opposition from large numbers of Europeans, including many Germans and Austrians. The protesters see the Canadian deal as a warm-up for a much larger battle.

Full article: Canada and EU break through globalisation gloom to sign trade deal (The Age)

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