Is Trudeau dropping the trade ball, again?

The Japan Times reports that “The chief negotiators of the 11 remaining signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership met Monday in Tokyo to work on getting the free trade pact signed without the United States … [but] … The focus of the two-day meeting is on whether members can get Canada onboard for an early signing, with Australia, Chile and Japan pushing to hold the official ceremony by March. They agreed on core elements of the pact in November in Vietnam but left some matters for further negotiation.

Canada,” the report says, “is holding out to secure protection of its cultural industries, like movies, TV, and music, and has said it will not be rushed into signing a deal that other members hope to conclude by March. That is casting a shadow over a meeting of trade officials from member countries this week in Tokyo, and is raising questions about the economic benefits of a pact that doesn’t bring Canada into the fold.” So because failed (token) minister Mélanie Joly screwed up on a perceived promise (to Quebec) to tax Netflix, Canada may screw itself out of one of the world’s biggest and best trade deals? Is that the change for which we voted?

The article explains that ““The overall economic impact of the CPTPP would be significantly further eroded if Canada, which is a Group of Seven nation, decides to postpone its decision about joining,” said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit. After Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement last year, Japan took a leading role in pushing for a replacement pact. Along with Australia and Mexico, Tokyo has lobbied hard for the agreement, which aims to eliminate trading barriers and tariffs on industrial and farm products across the 11-nation bloc whose trade totaled $356 billion in 2016. “Our strong preference is for all 11 countries to join the first wave, but our focus is on bringing a new TPP agreement into force as soon as possible with those who are ready to move,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Tokyo last week. The talks that kicked off Monday are expected to iron out technical differences on rules for the treatment of labor and intellectual property, but are unlikely to yield a conclusive statement that member countries will quickly sign the pact.” Australia and Japan are important allies and trading partners; prime Minister Trudeau has treated both shabbily which might go down well in (generally protectionist) Quebec and Ontario but is bad for Canada.

Canada does have a better case to ask the 11 to revisit the rules of origin for autos which were included to appease the United States. Since Donald Trump bailed out of the TPP then ANY rules that four the USA should ALL be dumped. It should be possible to amend the auto section before a March signing ceremony.

The report concludes that ““Canada has taken a step back to say they cannot sign TPP 11 right away, but there are expectations that if the remaining 10 countries move ahead Canada will eventually come back,” said Junichi Sugawara, senior research officer at Mizuho Research Institute.” That would be a mistake … If, and it should not be a big “if,” the auto rules of origin matter can be resolved then Canada should sign on in March. That would be in the national interest, even though that doesn’t appear to count for much with Team Trudeau.


Edited to add: The Globe and Mail reports than an anonymous official says that (s)he “is “hopeful” it will reach an agreement Tuesday on a revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership … [and the] … government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing talks, said Ottawa believes the deal can be struck, even though the government would still like to see more progress on negotiations surrounding the automotive and cultural sectors.

 


 

Further edited to add: And now the Globe and Mail reports that a deal has been done: “Canada and the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed Tuesday to a revised trade agreement without the United States … [and] … The deal, confirmed by Singapore’s government, follows two days of high-level talks in Tokyo between Canada and the 10 other remaining TPP economies. The partners will now work toward signing the agreement by early March, Singapore trade and industry ministry said in a statement … [further] … The deal was announced just hours after a Canadian government official said Ottawa was optimistic that a revised TPP pact would be reached as early as Tuesday.

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