Ministers from the European Union and Canada have finally put pen to paper on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), one of the largest free trade agreements (FTAs) in their history.
The deal is intended to generate billions of dollars in bilateral trade and investment, offer lower prices to consumers and create middle-class jobs across numerous sectors on both sides of the Atlantic.
CETA will remove almost all import duties on products sold between the EU and Canada, with the EU estimating that European exporters of industrial and agricultural goods will save up to €500 million every year as a result.
Canada, meanwhile, will gain access to more than 500 million consumers across the 28 EU nations, which generate C$20 trillion (€13.48 trillion) in annual economic activity between them. Additionally, the FTA will provide greater consistency on regulations governing workers' rights, environmental standards and consumer safety.
The EU and Canada have also signed a new Strategic Partnership Agreement to enhance cooperation in several other important areas, including energy, the environment and climate change, migration and peaceful pluralism, counter-terrorism, security, and effective multilateralism.
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, said: "This modern and progressive agreement will reinforce the strong links between Canada and the EU, and create vast new opportunities for Canadians and Europeans alike."
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker added: "The people of Canada and the EU have opened a new chapter in their relationship. More than half a billion people on both sides of the Atlantic will enjoy new opportunities."
The signing of CETA will come as a great relief to ministers after it had previously appeared that objections raised by the Belgian region of Wallonia would scupper the deal. However, further talks with local officials resulted in their concerns being assuaged, allowing the EU to obtain the unanimous approval the FTA required to pass.