TPP-11 ratification must be a priority for House

For Canadian agriculture, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The agreement is on track to pass through the House by the fall, but we must be mindful of what can happen if MPs lose focus.

Bill C-49, which updated transportation rules to address — among other things — how grain is moved in Canada, took a year to pass after Liberals got into a back and forth with the Senate over its contents, despite urgent calls from producers, shippers and the railways to get a move on.

Italy’s new right-wing government says it will not ratify the Comprehensive Agreement on Tariffs and Trade between the European Union and Canada because it doesn’t offer some domestic food enough protection.

Then there is the reason the CPTPP is now known as the TPP-11 — the United States, which was a signatory to the original deal, withdrew when Donald Trump became president.

A protected approval process for trade deals can run up against surprises that catch governments off-guard.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, called the CPTPP “probably the most significant trade deal since NAFTA,” which took effect in 1994.

The agreement — which includes Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — creates a new free-trade zone by lowering import tariffs over a number of years. Together, the 11 economies have 500 million people comprising $13.5 billion in gross domestic product. (For comparison, the U.S. GDP was $18.6 billion in 2016.)

Three-quarters of Canada’s exports are shipped to the U.S., but many of the CPTPP markets offer opportunity for growth.

And it’s literally a big deal. Canada’s trade with the other CPTPP countries amounts to about $95 billion. This deal could see that grow by $4.2 billion.

Research commissioned by the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance suggests the agreement has the potential to increase Canadian agri-food exports by up to $2 billion annually for a variety of products including beef, pork, canola, wheat, barley and oats, pulses and soybeans.

Tariff reductions by Japan alone could boost Canadian beef sales there by $200 million annually, in the near term.

Virtually every agricultural group in Canada is pushing for the federal government to ratify the agreement quickly to allow Canada to take advantage of “first-mover” opportunities. The deal goes into effect 60 days after six countries have ratified it.

Those first six countries get a running start in making business deals and establishing trade relationships.

The deal is seen as so mutually beneficial among trade partners that the Trump administration is looking at finding a way to re-enter, albeit with new conditions.

There is also the advantage of sending a signal to the U.S. that Canada is willing to seek other markets for its products — a tangible demonstration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s much analyzed comment at the recent G7 summit that Canada “won’t be pushed around.”

Mexico has ratified the deal, and several other countries have said they will do so by the fall.

Legislation to ratify the CPTTP was introduced in the House on June 14. The NDP has voiced concerns, but the Conservatives have said they will support the legislation.

This is not a trade pact to let slip through our fingers due to the vagaries of changing political winds.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.


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