Couillard praises Quebec's international role following CETA signing
Published Sunday, October 30, 2016 5:36PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 30, 2016 6:43PM EDT
As he joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Belgium for the signing of the CETA trade pact with the European Union, Premier Philippe Couillard said he’s proud of the role Quebec played in negotiations.
Trudeau has specifically thanked Quebec for helping to save the talks at the last minute, saying officials had worked behind the scenes to convince officials from the French-speaking Belgian region of Wallonia to join on.
“Today, if you look at what was said at the press conferece, both Mr. Trudeau and (E.U. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker) made very positive remarks about Quebec’s international role,” said Couillard.
The premier has said the pact will create 16,000 new jobs in Quebec.
“All this leads to new jobs,” he told CTV Montreal. “Open markets create jobs, closed markets destroy jobs. That’s the main message here today.”
Critics have said the deal will make Quebec farmers vulnerable to an invasion of European goods: there will be 17,000 more tons of European cheese alone in the province beginning in January. Couillard said the federal government has indicated they will compensate Quebec cheese makers for any losses and he is confident Quebec companies will gain by seizing new export opportunities.
“We share the concerns,” said Couillard. “I expect to see quite a significant, and I would not say immediate effect, but quite early, because you know, again, our economy, because of its size and nature and structure, has to be supported by exports. The moment you open markets, the more opportunities you create, the more job creation you’ll have.”
Former premier Jean Charest was also involved in the talks, having begun negotiations in 2009 and later joining in as a consultant. He said the accord is important as the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, has seen presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both discuss scrapping or renegotiating trade deal to protect American workers.
“It will give access for us to a market, the richest consumer market in the world, 500 million people in Europe” said Charest. “It’s going to be very significant, especially in this context of the Americans, who are going to be more regressive on trade.”