Newspaper article The Canadian Press

EU Trade Chief Sees Rising Anti-Populism Following Brexit and Trump

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

EU Trade Chief Sees Rising Anti-Populism Following Brexit and Trump

Article excerpt

EU trade chief sees rising anti-populism


OTTAWA - The European Union's trade chief says she appreciates having Justin Trudeau and his international brand on her side in the fight against the forces of anti-trade populism.

But these days, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is channelling another prominent Canadian -- legendary singer Joni Mitchell -- as she fights the protectionist and isolationist sentiments roiling the globe in the seismic wake of Britain deciding to leave the EU and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Events such as Brexit, such as the election of Trump, which makes uncertainty in the world, is also in a way bringing us a little bit more together and forcing us to sharpen our thoughts and what we have and what we might lose," Malmstrom said Tuesday.

"You don't know what you have until you risk losing it -- I didn't really get that right, but you know what I mean."

Malmstrom -- in Ottawa for meetings with Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland -- may have slightly mangled the reference to Mitchell's famous 1970 hit "Big Yellow Taxi," but her message was clear.

Malmstrom cited this week's loss by anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders in the Netherlands election, along with a similar defeat in December for a right-wing anti-Islam candidate in Austria, as evidence of populism's waning shine.

But one more big election is posing an existential threat to the EU: France's upcoming presidential ballot, where far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen is vying for power.

"The arguments that Mrs. Le Pen and her party are promoting is not only anti-trade, it's globalization, it's anti-immigration, it's anti most of the values that the majority of us uphold," she told journalists at the EU's Ottawa embassy.

"So that would be a real threat to the European Union as a whole."

The EU's popularity is rising in the polls, while demonstrations against populism have sprung up in Germany, and another big one is planned for Rome later this week, she said. …

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