EU Needs Canadian Trade Deal to Stay ‘Relevant,’ Trudeau Says

The European Union will face questions about its own relevancy if it can’t enact a free trade agreement with Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Canada and the EU agreed to changes earlier this year to smooth passage of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which Trudeau’s government hopes can be provisionally enacted by early 2017.

The prime minister said Friday the deal is something of a litmus test for the EU in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

In the wake of Britain’s decision to leave “it’s really important to demonstrate that the European Union is able to sign important trade deals,” Trudeau said Friday during an interview with Reuters in Toronto.

“This is a progressive trade deal with a progressive country,” he said. “And if the European Union is unable to weave its way through passing this particular deal, I think there are big questions people are going to have to ask about how relevant the European Union continues to be as a political entity.”

Canada and the EU share values on environmental regulations and labor standards that make the trade pact viable and changes agreed to in March “demonstrate that we are not deaf to the concerns people have," Trudeau said, expressing optimism the deal will ultimately be adopted.

Canada, through Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, has focused its lobbying efforts on social democratic parties across the EU in a bid to win support. Trudeau appointed a CETA envoy in August to he.p push for ratification, which his government considers likely but not yet guaranteed.

Trudeau is a vocal proponent of trade and has voiced concerns about rising waves of protectionist sentiment globally. While he backs CETA, the prime minister hasn’t yet taken a position on Canada’s other major looming trade deal -- the Trans Pacific Partnership between a dozen Pacific rim nations, including the U.S. and Japan.

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