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Canada, EU to discuss trade accord at summit

media Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hosting EU leaders for a summit at which they will discuss a new free trade accord AFP/File

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepared Wednesday to welcome senior EU officials for a brief summit at which they will promote a free trade agreement.

Trudeau will confer with European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Maelstrom for a gathering due to last less than 24 hours.

"We'll discuss how we can work together on the most pressing global challenges -- and make life better for people on both sides of the Atlantic," Trudeau said in a statement.

He said the leaders would stress the positive effects of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. It went into effect in practically its entirety in September 2017 and so far has been ratified by 13 of the 28 EU member states and Canada.

The pact removes tariffs on nearly all goods and services between Canada and Europe, which the EU says eliminates 590 million euros ($890 million Canadian/$665 million) in customs duties each year.

The agreement is controversial: some environmentalists, social activists and free trade sceptics argue it gives too much power to corporations and does not give citizens a balancing right to take legal action if companies break the rules.

Since the accord came into effect, EU exports to Canada have risen 15 percent, a European official said.

Canadian exports to the EU rose seven percent in 2018 compared to the previous year to $44.5 billion, according to Canadian government figures.

But work remains to be done to persuade businesses of the opportunities provided by the accord, Canada says.

Trudeau and his European guests will attend a photo session and reception Wednesday evening, then hold talks Thursday.

The agenda also includes climate change, protecting oceans and reforms to the World Trade Organization.

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