OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau arrives in Europe on Thursday and plans to talk more openly about one of the things he didn’t discuss with Donald Trump — the merits of free trade in the face of increasingly hostile, populist opposition.
The prime minister is to deliver his pro-trade message in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on Thursday — a first for a Canadian leader — and to top business leaders a day later in Germany.
On Friday, he’ll be in Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wasn’t shy about reminding Trump the day after his surprise victory that Germany and the U.S. were “bound” by common values and that she looked forward to working with him on that basis.
Standing next to Trump in Washington on Monday, Trudeau said it wasn’t his job to lecture foreign leaders when he visits them. He had been asked to comment on Trump’s controversial executive order banning people from seven mainly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
While he may have demurred on immigration, government officials say Trudeau won’t be shy about praising something else now under attack from Trump: liberalized, multilateral trade deals such as Canada’s deal with the EU, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA.
The European Parliament is set to ratify CETA on Wednesday, which will pave the way for 90 per cent of it to come into force once Canada’s Parliament follows suit in the coming months.
But government officials who briefed journalists Tuesday on the condition they not be named, said the prime minister will be “sharpening” his message on the need for political and business leaders to do more to sell the merits of the free trade to an increasingly skeptical and anxious public.
Trudeau will use his final event of the whirlwind two-day tour to deliver that message to a particularly well-appointed crowd at the St. Matthew’s Day Banquet in the German city of Hamburg late Friday.
Trudeau will use his keynote address to warn that more needs to be done to address the anxieties of middle-class people who aren’t getting ahead, because if nothing is done to ease those concerns, the world will have larger problems on its hands, officials say.
Officials say Trudeau is targeting that message specifically for his banquet audience, because it will be made up of political and business elites, making it an affair akin to the tony World Economic Forum in Davos.
One official said this is a crowd that needs to hear that message because it not one that is “particularly cognizant” of.
Officials say Trudeau is more than aware that the 2016 St. Matthew’s keynote speaker was former British prime minister David Cameron, who used his speech to outline his plan for countering his country’s Brexit movement to leave the EU.
Cameron’s plan didn’t work. Britons voted to leave the EU and Cameron resigned.
Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will be in Strasbourg on Wednesday ahead of Trudeau for the parliamentary vote on CETA. He expects it to pass.
“This is the right deal at the right time for the world. The world is in search of a progressive, open trade agenda and Canada and the EU embodies that,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
“What we need to do, however, is do a better job of explaining what trade means to people.”