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Commentary With CETA, Canada and the EU face protectionism as strategic partners

This year, Canada and the European Union celebrate over 40 years of relations. We are united by a deep friendship, a common history and culture, common values and ideals.

Trade relations between us are also strong, but they are about to become even stronger. The comprehensive economic and trade agreement we have just struck, known as CETA, helps us face the threat of rising protectionism – as strategic partners with a progressive trade agenda. Between them, Canada and the EU account for nearly one dollar in every five of global trade.

The agreement is our most ambitious ever. Canadian businesses will see virtually all tariffs removed on their exports to Europe, and be better able to compete in global value chains. Canadian consumers will be able to get better deals on European products like food or fashion.

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CETA will strengthen the investment between Canada and the EU which already supports over half a million jobs – as well as opening services markets and cutting the red tape that poses such a burden for small business. Open public procurement will enable more efficient use of scarce public resources – with public authorities able to shop around more widely.

CETA will mean new opportunities for Canadians who want to work in Europe, and vice versa. Professionals from architects to crane operators will potentially see their qualifications recognized across the Atlantic.

The agreement does all this without compromising on public services or protections like health or food safety. Europeans are just as committed to these as Canadians are; so nothing in this agreement will undermine them. Indeed, under the deal, both parties agree to strengthen their commitment to workers' rights and protecting the environment. Trade should mean sustainable development – not a "race to the bottom" on standards.

With ratification now complete at the EU level, provisional application could bring many of these benefits into effect within a matter of weeks, with full implementation due to follow after all EU national parliaments also vote for the deal.

Our open economies have guaranteed us prosperity and progress. New trade barriers would jeopardize the tens of millions of jobs that depend on exports, raise prices and threaten livelihoods across the world, including the millions whom trade has helped lift out of poverty.

This landmark agreement is helping us shape globalization. CETA provides us a model of responsible trade policy that is effective, transparent and based on values. It is a template we will pursue in our other negotiations, from Mexico to Japan.

On the international scene, we will continue to work with Canada and others as a force for progressive, liberal trade – from cutting the cost of environmental goods to defending the rules-based framework of the World Trade Organization.

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The EU is the world's largest trader and largest foreign investor. With or without Britain, our leadership in global commerce will continue, and we will still be Canada's second-largest goods-trading partner.

As I visit Canada this week my message is clear: Even at a time when some doors may be closing, the EU's are staying firmly open.

Cecilia Malmström is the European Union's Commissioner for Trade

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