Canada and the UK should aim for a post-Brexit trade deal which is better than the current arrangement, according to finance minister Bill Morneau.
Morneau said the deal agreed in late 2016 with the EU, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta), will be the model for “replication” with the UK once it leaves, but added that an improved deal would be a final aim.
Speaking in London’s Guildhall today, he said: “We’d like to see it be even more significant than the current arrangement; that would be the goal.”
Ceta has been repeatedly offered by the EU as a model for the post-Brexit trading relationship with the UK, although this has dismayed some parts of the City as financial services are, for the most part, not included.
While Morneau did not address the specific nature of UK-EU trade, he did leave the door open for a trade deal covering financial services.
“We think that open trading relationships are positive, so any barriers we can break down in the post-Brexit world with the UK would be positive.”
Quoting Canada’s Liberal party Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Morneau said: “Better is always possible.”
However, he expressed less enthusiasm for a trading bloc based on the Commonwealth group of nations, which includes the UK. UK international trade minister Liam Fox has focused on reinvigorating Commonwealth trading ties after Brexit, but Morneau said trade priorities will be determined by the size of their economies.
He said: “We are thinking about the size of the economies that we’re trying to expand trade with. That’s why Ceta was so important, because of the size of the market.
Meanwhile, Canada is in the middle of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), after US President Donald Trump demanded it be rewritten.
Morneau said Canada is pursuing an “as rapid as possible approach” to the renegotiations, and added that the US’s recent decision to exempt its northern neighbour from steel and aluminium tariffs was welcomed.
On the rising tide of protectionist rhetoric coming from world leaders, Morneau said it was important to emphasise the benefits of global trade for citizens.
He said: “Dealing with people’s anxiety in the face of automation and globalisation is really important, to keep people engaged in the long-term goal of enhancing all our economies through trade. We’re not able to think about trade as divorced from how Canadians get benefits from trade.”