By Hajer M’tiri
Canada’s premier used his first address to the European Parliament on Thursday to praise a transatlantic trade deal struck by the two sides in the teeth of regional European opposition.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed the European Parliament's approval of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), while stressing the need to make it work.
"CETA is not only about commerce, imports and exports, about profits. It aims to improve people's lives," Trudeau told lawmakers in Strasbourg, one day after the European Parliament approved the EU-Canada trade pact.
The Canadian PM said in agreeing to ratify CETA, both sides had shown they value trade and "the prosperity that comes with it".
He said adding the deal would allow both the EU and Canada to "lead the international economy" rather than simply be "subject to its whims".
Trudeau said if both sides were successful in implementing the deal, it could provide the blueprint for future pacts, warning: “If we are not [successful], this could well be one of the last."
His speech in the European Parliament is the first ever by a Canadian leader.
The CETA agreement -- which took seven years of negotiations -- was formally signed in October 2016 following last-minute opposition from the Belgian region of Wallonia.
CETA was put in jeopardy after the Wallonia region refused to agree terms, worried that cheaper goods from Canada would hurt the farming and labor sectors, as well as lessen environmental and consumer standards.
For all parts of the deal to come into effect, it has to be approved by EU national and regional parliaments, as well as MEPs.
The deal cuts tariffs on 99 percent of trade goods, allows EU firms to bid for public contracts in Canada and opens up the Canadian services market to EU companies.
In 2015, EU-Canada trade accounted for more than €60 billion ($63.4 billion) and CETA is expected to boost this by 20 percent, according to European Union data.