Canada's Justin Trudeau takes shot at Donald Trump protectionism at Davos forum

Trudeau speaking during the World Economic Forum annual meeting. PHOTO: REUTERS

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticised the protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday (Jan 23) while fervently defending the virtues of free trade.

In a speech alluding to Trump and his threat to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), Trudeau said his administration is "working very hard to make sure that our neighbour to the south recognises how good Nafta is, and that (Nafta) has benefited not just our economy, but his economy and the world's economy."

Earlier Canada agreed at talks in Tokyo to join 10 other countries in resurrecting the Trans Pacific Partnership, now called the CPTPP.

This came on the heels of a free trade deal with Europe and amid difficult negotiations with the United States and Mexico to revamp the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

"The agreement reached in Tokyo today is the right deal," Trudeau said, adding that the CPTPP deal marked "a great day for progressive trade around the world."

In addition to Canada, the CPTPP includes 10 countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Canada, which is the second-largest economy in the CPTPP, had walked away from a deal on the trade pact last November, holding out to maintain environmental and labour protections linked to freer markets.

A Canadian government official said "significant progress on the sticking points" had been made.

The agreement, said Trudeau, is now "more progressive and stronger for Canadian workers in the fields of intellectual property, culture and the auto industry".

At the same time, the prime minister raised concerns about a growing backlash against globalisation.

"We're seeing a lot of trade skepticism around the world in general right now," he said.

"People are worried or become increasingly convinced that trade deals benefit the few, not the many, benefit a country's bottom line, benefit multinationals, but don't benefit ordinary workers."

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