— the signing in Brussels Friday morning of a free-trade deal with the European Union — Harper can be confident that historians will begin with free trade in any story that gets told about his premiership.
It is historic — deserving of a spot in the official story of our nation — on many levels.
It is historic for the European Union, as well, for it is the first trade deal the EU has signed with a G8 country. For the 28 EU members, the work done with Canada may well be the template for a free-trade deal the EU now intends to negotiate with the United States.
As for Canada, the EU deal has only other such comparison to the U.S. free-trade agreement signed in 1989 by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Yet Harper's deal with Europe could be more important than the 1989 pact if only because the EU, with 500 million customers, is such a bigger a market with much more potential for wealth creation on both sides of the Atlantic.
The EU market is 500 million consumers, compared to the approximately 330 million consumers in the United States. This deal has the potential to be a huge economic stimulus for Canada. Not only manufacters and suppliers of the four Fs (food, forestry, fuel and fertilizer), it aids the shipping industries (rail and water ports).
With in excess of 80% of Canadian trade occuring with the United States, this free trade deal opens a huge market that will help bring that imbalance back into line. It also provides the Canadian government with options and flexibility in negotiations. If President Obama continues to stonewall the Keystone Pipeline, the Eurozone will welcome Canadian Oil Sand Crude.