Time is ticking to move forward with TPP

Canada cannot miss the boat on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As the gateway to the high-growth Pacific Rim, British Columbia is the conduit for 65 percent of Canada’s exports of a variety of products, agriculture and agri-food being among the most important and going to over 150 markets, mostly through the Port of Vancouver.

Canada’s agriculture and food exporters are in strong support of seeing the TPP being ratified, at the earliest opportunity. We enjoy the kind of favourable conditions that allow us to produce more than our population needs, so the Canadian agri-food sector is largely export-dependent. However, we still have competitors and we need to have comparable terms of access in world markets in order to maintain our ability to retain and grow our exports.

The clock is ticking. It has been six months since the TPP was concluded in Atlanta after five years of intense negotiations. As Canadians continue to debate this agreement, the rest of the world is not standing still. There are many other separate trade deals negotiated and readied for implementation as these, and, hopefully, the TPP enter into force, the status quo will not be an option. The stakes are high, with hundreds of millions of dollars in beef, pork, grain and oilseed exports hanging in the balance. We cannot afford to watch the rest of the Asia-Pacific region — and our competitors — move on without us.

For hundreds of thousands of Canadian farmers, producers, processors and exporters, the TPP is integral to their future economic viability. It is critical to the hundreds of thousands of jobs and substantial economic contributions that those businesses generate.

These are the facts. The TPP is a massive trade deal that will open up new opportunities in a number of fast-growing markets along the Pacific Rim. With the U.S. and Japan at its core, the trading bloc represents 800 million people, encompassing 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

Additional access to the U.S., Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia appear to be the major market gains for Canadian agriculture and agri-food exporters. Under a ratified TPP, tariffs will be removed or phased out upon entry into force on a wide range of agricultural commodities in key markets. It would make Canadian products available in markets that have traditionally been closed or limited. Also, as an original member, Canada will be able to negotiate concessions from new entrants to the accord.

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What is at stake? The TPP preserves Canada’s privileged access to our number one trading partner — the U.S. It secures unprecedented access to the fast-growing Asia Pacific region. It provides an opportunity to obtain more value from rapidly growing Asia-Pacific markets like Vietnam and Malaysia and high value markets such as Japan. Most importantly, the TPP puts us on an equal footing with our global competitors in the region. With 65 percent of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food exports already going to the TPP region, being on the outside means billions of dollars of existing exports would be at risk if competitors gain preferred access.

Beyond the current advantages, the markets available to Canadian goods exported under the TPP are set to grow with the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and, Indonesia all expressing interest in joining.

Once implemented, the impact of the TPP will be felt throughout the Pacific gateway region, and extend across the country. From the railways that feed into the system to the suppliers, farmers and grain-handling facilities, the TPP’s benefits will be all-encompassing for B.C. and the entire Canadian economy.

As the saying goes, a high tide lifts all boats. With the TPP on the horizon, the tide is coming. We dare not miss the boat.

Brian Innes is President of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA). CAFTA is a coalition of national and regional organizations that supports a more open and fair international trading environment for agriculture and agri-food.

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