The INTA committee delegation visited Canada on 20-23 March, shortly after the European Commission finished its long-awaited legal scrubbing of the EU-Canada trade agreement.
The objective was to gain an in depth understanding of the current situation and stakeholder positions with regards to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between two very close partners, the European Union and Canada.
The meetings we had with the Canadian side were constructive and showed clear support for the ratification of the agreement. This is the main message we brought back to Brussels from this visit.
The Maple Leaf country welcomed us with fresh weather and some refreshing and positive views on international trade.
As Parliament's standing rapporteur on CETA I was pleased to hear confirmation from politicians, parliamentarians, businesses and Canadian society representatives that the agreement would be beneficial to both sides.
Our agenda included meetings with stakeholders, Canadian industry and farmers as well as representatives of civil society and labour unions.
Our meeting with international trade minister Chrystia Freeland was very enriching and she reaffirmed Canada's commitment to stand up for common values in international trade.
This is a comprehensive and balanced trade agreement, the most ambitious and modern trade agreement the European Commission has negotiated to date.
The benefits of CETA will therefore extend beyond simple tariff reduction, also dealing with investment protection, access to procurement markets, services, other non-tariff barriers as well as addressing issues such as sustainable development. All this is much needed for both Canadian and European companies.
In my opinion, the significance of CETA lies not only in the direct economic aspects of a trade agreement, but also its larger, strategic and geopolitical implications.
While in Canada, our delegation learned about the tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels and everyone was moved by the solidarity expressed by our Canadian counterparts.
There is no question that our shared values go beyond trade. Canada and the EU are likeminded partners, who share much in common; both societies uphold the same values. Consequently the evaluation of CETA both in Canada and the EU seems to share similar positive views as well as similar concerns.
Freeland also asked for timely ratification of the trade deal by the European Parliament, noting that Canada has been highly forthcoming to European suggestions during the negotiations. It was stressed by both sides that it is important to ratify the trade deal by both sides by the end of 2016.
This is something both my political grouping, the EPP and myself, as standing rapporteur have been emphasising ; we need a speedy ratification of CETA, which is a modern and comprehensive trade agreement between two very close partners.
It will give an additional boost to our economies thus providing governments on both sides of the Atlantic with the capabilities to assist their national communities to grow stronger and wealthier.
I am grateful to the Canadian side for the warm welcome we received and I extend my thanks to the chief negotiators on both sides, Mauro Petriccione and Steve Verheul, who have been able to provide the highest standard of trade agreement negotiated so far and which can now serve as an example for future trade negotiations.