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[OTTAWA] The trade pact between Canada and the European Union approved this week could be one of the world's last multilateral trade deals unless policy makers share the benefits more widely, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told European lawmakers.
Mr Trudeau addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Thursday after both it and Canada's House of Commons approved the trade agreement, known as Ceta, this week. While mounting a vigorous defence of the push to liberalise global trade, Mr Trudeau insisted that policy makers have to do more at home to make sure their voters see the benefits of such deals.
"This anxiety toward the economy and trade - the worry that our kids won't have access to the same jobs and opportunities that we had - can be addressed only if we ensure that trade is inclusive, so that everyone benefits," Mr Trudeau said, according to prepared remarks.
"If we are successful, Ceta will become the blueprint for all ambitious, future trade deals. If we are not, this could very well be one of the last."
Mr Trudeau's trip comes on the heels of a visit earlier this week to Washington, where he sought to preserve trade with the US as President Donald Trump pushes for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mr Trudeau alluded to protectionist sentiment in North America and Europe throughout his Strasbourg speech, saying concerns among voters are "valid" but urged policy makers not to rip up the trade links that have taken years to negotiate.
"It is much, much easier to point out problems than it is to solve them. It is harder work to build than it is to tear things down," he said.
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement had once been set to pave the way for an EU-US deal but now looks like a rare multilateral success story in a protectionist era.
Foreign trade has emerged as a top policy priority for both the Trudeau government and the EU, which held up Ceta's approval vote Wednesday as a sign the bloc still supports free trade. Mr Trudeau had warned the EU's legitimacy was at stake if the pact faltered. Before the European vote Wednesday, protests against the accord delayed the arrival of lawmakers.
"A push for a free trade agreement such as Ceta would send a very clear signal to the global trading system that the EU continues to believe in freer trade," said Lourdes Catrain, a trade lawyer and partner at law firm Hogan Lovells International LLP who is based in Brussels.
"Certain parties that may have been reluctant to back certain parts of Ceta a short time ago, they might now be willing to look at it with different spectacles just because of the geopolitics."
In visiting Mr Trump, Mr Trudeau pressed to maintain the two countries' US$540 billion annual trade relationship. Mr Trump said he planned only "tweaks" for Canada's terms under Nafta and was instead targeting Mexico.
Mr Trump also pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership - a deal that included Canada - and is expected to freeze talks on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal between the US and EU, for which Ceta was seen as a precursor. Officials have few deals other than Ceta, which was rewritten to address protectionist fears, to point to as success stories.
"It couldn't come at a more important time for the world," said lawmaker Peter Harder, Mr Trudeau's representative in Canada's Senate.
"This is an important bill both substantively, and from a broader policy statement of the Parliament of Canada that it is for liberalised trading regimes."
The Canadian Senate and EU national parliaments still have to approve Ceta, though Mr Harder expects Canada's upper chamber to give its endorsement in March or April. The agreement is due to provisionally come into force in the spring, though Britain's exit from the EU is also complicating its application.
"Part of the Brexit package is going to be some sort of strategy as to how Britain can preserve the benefits it has obtained through the EU free trade agreements," Mr Catrain said.
Mr Trudeau meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday in Berlin, with the two - hailed by former US Vice President Joe Biden as the last icons of liberalism - due to hold a joint press conference in the early afternoon.
Mr Trudeau will then give a keynote speech at the St Matthias Day Dinner in Hamburg Friday evening, where he'll repeat his call for Europe's business and political leaders to focus on so-called inclusive growth, by increasing redistributive policies to maintain, or build, support for trade.
"We have just demonstrated to the world: we, collectively, value trade, and the promise of prosperity for all our citizens that comes with it," Mr Trudeau said.
"Now we need to make it work, for your people and ours."