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If we can't do a deal with Trudeau-led Canada, who the hell can we do one with?

If we can't do a deal with Trudeau-led Canada, who the hell can we do one with?
3 min read

To survive in the post-Brexit global economy, we need to strengthen and develop our trading relationships around the world and where better to start than with Canada asks John Spellar MP.


In November progressives around the world welcomed the election of Canadian Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau, and the departure of the abrasive Conservative, Stephen Harper, who not only ran a right-wing regime at home, but was also a pillar of the International Conservative Movement.

So Canada should be of interest to Labour as a country that is bucking the right-wing trend of politics worldwide.  Furthermore, very many families in the UK have relatives in Canada.  In spite of this, it’s astonishing there is a gathering movement against doing a trade deal between Europe and Canada – a G20 country with a vibrant economy and abundant national resources. This agreement is referred to as the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA).

Opponents of CETA fail to recognise that across the globe trading blocs are developing and this is one where we can agree high labour and environmental standards to provide an international bench mark.  There will be a general reduction in tariffs, but that’s not the most important part of the deal.  Those benefits are far exceeded by elimination or reduction of bureaucratic blockages. 

This can affect particular industries such as the automotive, with convergence of standards; or the Scotch whisky industry will gain from the removal of behind-the-border tariffs; architects and engineers will be able to work more easily in Canada through mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Furthermore, a chapter in the agreement on trade and sustainability development is a breakthrough with commitments to full labour standards and protection of the right to regulate in the areas of labour and the environment. 

Most advanced is an improved model for investor state disputes which has caused concern, legitimate or otherwise, in some other agreements.  The new agreement proposes a permanent tribunal composed of public judges, rather than a panel of arbitrators, with an appeal system and also a transparency of documents submitted which will be publicly available.  Furthermore, all hearings will be open to the public and all interested parties would be able to make submissions.

The agreement provides basic guarantees to Canadian investors and the EU vice-versa, but not at a higher level of protection than domestic investors.  That will not lead to foreign investors being treated more favourably than domestic ones.  The ultimate aim is the establishment of a multilateral investment court following the same procedures.

An area of concern expressed by constituents has been the privatisation of public services.  The EU has not only incorporated a public utilities exception into CETA, but also secured reservations on health services and social services.  Not only are public services protected from privatisation, but nothing will stop a Government in the future renationalising a public service previously brought into the commercial sector.

All of this therefore should be good news for the UK and for British workers as well as for other countries across Europe.  It becomes particularly important for us as we head out of the EU. 

To survive we will need to strengthen and develop our trading relations around the world and where better to start than with Canada.  After all if we cannot secure a deal with progressive, Trudeau-led Canada, a nation with which we share a common language and values, many family ties and which is also a strong trading, defence and security partner, then quite frankly who the hell do we think we can do a deal with.

John Spellar is the Labour Member of Parliament for Warley

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