Former Liberal minister for international trade Pierre Pettigrew has been named a special envoy of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada said the creation of this position reflects the high priority that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government places on seeing the deal done.
"Mr. Pettigrew's deep understanding of Europe, trade and business will be instrumental in getting CETA signed this year and ratified in 2017," International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said in the statement. "He brings with him a lifetime of international experience and a profound dedication to public service."
International Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew makes an address before foreign journalists during a media luncheon in Tokyo on Oct. 11, 2001. (Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics Pettigrew said his new position would require him to perform three essential tasks for Canada:
- Connect with businesses in Canada and Europe to ensure their interests are reflected in the deal.
- Shepherd the agreement through its signing and ratification process in the EU and national parliaments.
- Take a lead role in the promotion of the deal, once completed, to ensure it benefits the Canadian economy.
- The deal must now be approved by the European Council — the heads of state or government for all 28 member states of the EU, plus the head of the European Commission and president of the EU.
If they approve CETA, Trudeau would travel to Brussels, where he would sign the deal the following week. Pettigrew said that while the date for approval is fast approaching, he's confident CETA will be completed on time.
"Minister Freeland has had very constructive meetings with Cecilia Malmstrom, the European trade commissioner, and they have the same sort of targets in mind," Pettigrew told host David Cochrane. "It will be a lot of hard work in the next few weeks for the whole team."
Global backlash against trade
Pettigrew said that while he remains confident the deal will be done, there are some global challenges that will make completing it less than straightforward.
"The mood around trade has not been too good lately. You've seen it with the Brexit vote, you hear it in the American presidential election right now," he said. "The negativity around trade is very strong, so clearly it will be very important that the European Union has some good news with this trailblazing agreement."
He also said that with the current mood towards trade in the U.S. it "might be a big challenge" to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, whereas CETA has widespread support in both Europe and Canada.
A ratification vote in the EU Parliament could take place later this year or in early 2017. After the vote, 90 per cent of the deal would apply provisionally.
But that is not the end of the CETA journey. The agreement will then still have to be passed by a vote in each individual member state's legislature before it is fully ratified.
Brexit not expected to hamper CETA
That has raised the question of whether individual states could prevent the deal from reaching its final stage if they are unhappy with elements of the deal or have other outstanding issues with Canada that they would want resolved first.
One of those issues has to do with visa requirements on citizens from Romania and Bulgaria wishing to visit Canada, and the suggestion that those countries could hold up CETA unless that requirement is lifted.
"I don't think one country could actually block it," Pettigrew said. "I don't think that this will be an issue as far as the trade agreement is concerned, as long as they understand that the government is looking at that issue as well."
Pettigrew also said that he does not expect Brexit to in any way hamper the completion of CETA and that he fully expects the deal to be done before Britain exits the EU.
"In her meeting with Liam Fox, the United Kingdom trade minister, Minister Freeland got from him a solid commitment that Britain would be supporting this early signature and early ratification before they actually enact on Brexit," Pettigrew said.
Freeland will discuss CETA on Sept. 19, when she will address the party conference of Germany's Social Democratic Party in Wolfsburg, Germany, and three days later, when she meets with EU trade ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia.