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Justin Trudeau brings pro-trade pitch to conflicted Europe

by David Cochrane (feat. Gary Soroka)

CBC News
February 15, 2017

Two days after showing the world he could find common ground with U.S. President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will take a pro-trade message to Europe at a time when right-wing populism and anti-European parties are gaining popularity.

Trudeau is set to leave Ottawa at noon Wednesday for a two-country, three-city tour. He will touch down first in Strasbourg, France, where on Thursday he will be the first Canadian prime minister to address the European Parliament.

Trudeau will deliver a staunchly pro-free-trade message during his speech to the European Parliament. Government officials speaking to reporters on background said he will highlight the progressive nature of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

The prime minister will call CETA "one of the most progressive deals in the world" and a model for future free-trade agreements. He is also expected to highlight how the middle-class — in both Europe and Canada — will benefit from the deal.

Trudeau's speech will come one day after the European Parliament voted to ratify the Canada-EU deal — and as Britain considers how it will implement the results of the Brexit vote to pull that country out of the European Common Market.

Meanwhile, other countries on the Continent are struggling with rising populist and protectionist sentiments.

'Strong statement from Canada'

Against that backdrop, retired diplomat Gary Soroka says a full-throated defence of open-trade and the European Union would be a welcome message.

"There is a real feeling the European Union is in danger of falling apart, that liberal democracy is under attack, that transatlantic relations are under attack — and, in that context, a strong statement from Canada is something of real value," said Soroka, who is also a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

"You know that's a political message that I think Europe really, really has to hear from a country that believes it and that has made it work."

After his speech, Trudeau will move on to Berlin for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany's ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnendt, said Trudeau's message of promoting trade and helping the middle class should be well-received.

"What we see in Europe, what we see on this side of the Atlantic, is a growing concern among people — and some call it 'fear' — that opening borders might be dangerous for you," Wnendt said.

"That's not our view of these things. We think that the global world must be an open world where all countries have their participation."

Canada and Germany do more than $20 billion in trade each year, and that will dominate much of Trudeau's meeting with Merkel. The two leaders will also discuss larger issues in the global economy, as well as defence and security —  in particular Canada's role in the NATO mission to Latvia.

Trump meeting 'of interest' to Germany 

And while it isn't on the official agenda, Trudeau's visit to Washington this week will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation, as Merkel and others will likely seek his impressions of Trump.

"It is of interest, of course, to meet with the prime minister a few days after he has been in Washington and met with the American president," Wnendt said.

But another focus for Trudeau will be ensuring key Canadian issues make it onto the agenda for this year's G20 summit, which Germany will host in July. In particular, Canada wants to discuss ways to ensure more people benefit from economic growth, finding ways to advance the roles of women and girls around the world, and the global response to the migrant and refugee crisis.

There will also be public expressions of condolence, as Trudeau and Merkel will visit the Berlin Christmas market where a Tunisian asylum seeker killed 12 people in December when he rammed his truck into a crowd.

Trudeau will end his trip with a keynote speech to a black-tie dinner in Hamburg, where the St. Matthews Feast attracts political and business elite. Canadian government officials said the prime minister will speak of the need to address middle class and economic anxiety as a way of pushing back against anti-trade sentiment.

The officials said there will be a "sharpening of that message" as Trudeau will tell business leaders they have to help politicians deal with the problem.


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