Canada's sweeping trade deal with the 28 members of the European Union received a final vote of approval Wednesday, setting the stage for the launch of a new transatlantic free-trade zone within weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to address the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Thursday, one day after the vote. Canadian officials say the Prime Minister's speech will present the deal as a model for global trade in an era of increasing protectionism.
Once in place, Canadian consumers will start to see more varieties of cheese and other products on store shelves while Canadian farmers and their products will have more access to the European Union and its 508 million people. Canada can expect more investment from large European firms, while Canadian companies will also face more foreign competition in areas such as bidding for government contracts.
Wednesday's EU vote will allow more than 98 per cent of the trade deal to take effect on a provisional basis once the Canadian Parliament also approves the agreement. The House of Commons gave its final approval Tuesday to a government bill implementing the deal. The legislation also requires the approval of the Senate.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau welcomed the EU's approval.
"We know that trade leads to good middle class jobs. That's why we're happy about the positive conversations we've had with the United States on how we recognize that working together we can enhance jobs on both sides of the border and why access to the European market for our producers, for our companies is going to be a good thing for Canadian jobs right across the country," the Prime Minister told reporters in Ottawa.
Each member state of the EU must still give its final approval of the deal, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), even though most of the measures will already be in place. Mr. Trudeau's trip will include a Friday visit to Berlin, where he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before delivering a keynote speech to a black-tie audience at a St. Matthew's Day banquet in Hamburg.
The Prime Minister's trade-focused trip to Europe comes on the heels of his one day meeting Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump, whose election victory on a protectionist platform has heightened the anxiety of free-trade advocates like Canada and Germany.
Ms. Merkel, who is much more closely aligned to Mr. Trudeau than Mr. Trump on issues of trade, immigration and climate change, will be expecting a full report from her Canadian counterpart.
"As Canadians do, Germans also look at what is happening in Washington," said Werner Wnendt, Germany's ambassador to Canada, in an interview. "And I think it's of course of great interest to have first-hand information from the prime minister and the ministers that accompanied him [to Washington],"
In addition to discussing Mr. Trump and trade issues, the German Chancellor is expected to ask Mr. Trudeau about Canada's pledge to send about 600 troops to a peacekeeping mission in Africa. Canada has never announced a location and Germany would like Canada to choose Mali, where about 1,000 German soldiers are part of a 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping force.
As this year's host of the G20, Germany will play a leadership role in guiding world economies toward a common path at a time when the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and Mr. Trump's election win have exposed major divisions regarding the future of international trade.
Mr. Trump has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, vowed to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement and has shown little appetite to continue American efforts to strike a trade deal with the EU along the lines of the one reached with Canada.
As the United States withdraws from the promotion of new trade agreements, China is taking up that vacated space. China will be attending a conference next month in Chile to discuss a trans-Pacific trade with several Pacific countries, including Canada, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and New Zealand.
Canada's business community welcomes the new trade deal with Europe, but cautions that it is now up to Canadian firms to take advantage of the opportunities and for governments to help Canadian firms expand.
"We're really quick to sign deals and then really not that great at supporting businesses and taking advantage of them," said Matthew Wilson, senior vice-president with the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters Association. "We've done a lot more [preparation] on CETA than we have on any other trade agreement that I can remember, so maybe it will be different this time. I hope so."
Stephen Wilhelm, Export Development Canada's London-based regional vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Canadian and European businesses are likely to be more interested in the launch of CETA now that there is so much uncertainty regarding the U.S. position on trade.
"You'd have to think that Canadian companies have to start looking more at Europe," he said. "And CETA is now the catalyst, hopefully, for these companies to look at Europe more seriously."