The Sunday Magazine

​Chrystia Freeland says CETA trade deal shows Canada is an "open society"​

A feature interview with Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of international trade, who negotiated a free trade agreement between Canada and Europe. The deal comes as protectionism grows around the globe, fed by concerns about job loss and income inequality.
International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Recently, we witnessed an emotional moment in the usually dispassionate arena of trade negotiations. Canada's Minister of International Trade, Chrystia Freeland, had just emerged from a meeting in Namur, the capital of the Belgian province of Wallonia. She had tried, and failed, to convince local officials to sign onto CETA  the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe, a treaty that was more than a decade in the making.

She told waiting reporters that a deal was not possible after all, not even with a country as kind and as patient as Canada, which shares European values.

Nine days later, everything changed.   

One of the things which is so important, I think, about Canada right now, is we have broad national support that very much crosses party lines, for what I like to call the open society. For being open to immigrants, for understanding that we need to be part of the global economy.- Chrystia Freeland

Europe and Canada reached a compromise; Prime Minister Trudeau flew to Brussels; and CETA was signed. It is a deal that promises to remove 98 per cent of tariffs between the EU and Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signs the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, left, and European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Oct. 30, 2016. (Thierry Monasse/Associated Press)

The process is far from over. CETA must be ratified by the Canadian government, the European Parliament and the European Council. Then each of the 28 EU member states will vote on the deal.

The Walloons have not been alone in their concern about CETA. There are plenty of critics on both sides of the pond. At the same time, in this age of protectionism, the Canadian government has earned praise for its ability to negotiate a complex deal that opens borders.

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Chrystia Freeland. 


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