Canadian Conservatives still support the TPP, which died after Trump’s withdrawal

By: Obert Madondo |  | Published April 20, 2017, by The Canadian Progressive

The Conservative Party of Canada maintains its support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which is now doomed following the United States’s withdrawal earlier this year. Photo credit: Cool Revolution / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) perished after President Donald Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States from the mega trade deal.

Still, the Conservative Party of Canada maintains its support of the agreement. That’s according to the party’s supplemental opinion in the Standing Committee on International Trade’s just-released report on the agreement. The report came out April 10th, after a year of public consultations.

According to the Conservatives:

Now with the United States having formally withdrawn from the TPP and over a year after signing the agreement, the Liberal government has still refused to take a position on an agreement that they know is in the best interest of Canadians. Japan has ratified the TPP and other remaining signatories like Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam have pledged to continue to pursue the TPP without the involvement of the United States. Accordingly, and in consideration of recent events surrounding the TPP, the CPC maintains our support for the agreement and we urge the Government of Canada to pursue a trade pact with the remaining signatories. Failure to do so will come at great cost to the Canadian economy.

The Conservatives’ position seems to contradict reality as well as the evidence offered by experts, ordinary Canadians, and other stakeholders during the committee’s consultations.

Soon after Trump’s withdrawal, Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, suggested that Canada should follow suit.

“With the U.S. out of the TPP, the agreement cannot take effect as it requires ratification from both the U.S. and Japan to do so,” Geist wrote in a blog post.  “The U.S. withdrawal offers the chance to hit the reset button by pursuing a renewed Canadian trade agenda featuring greater transparency, public participation, and preservation of the national interest.”

Last year, Geist extensively chronicled what he called “significant problems with the TPP.”  The publication, “Fighting TTIP, CETA and ISDS: Lessons from Canada,” by Maude Barlow, the national chairperson of the Council Canadians, and the report, “Major Complications: The TPP and Canadian Health Care,” by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), are two of the most compelling Canadian arguments against the TPP.

RELATED: Freeland Admits: U.S. Withdrawal Effectively Kills TPP Trade Deal

During the consultations, the Standing Committee on International Trade received the same concerns articulated by Geist and other experts. According the committee’s report:

While some individuals and organizations suggested that agreements such as the TPP are negotiated “behind closed doors” and mostly benefit large businesses, others expressed more specific concerns, most notably regarding the TPP’s ISDS mechanism and its IP provisions.

Regarding ISDS, one of the main concerns identified by witnesses during the Committee’s public consultation was the possibility that a case initiated by an investor against a state – and any resulting financial burden – could deter governments from making new regulations. In response to these concerns, the Committee believes that, in future FTAs negotiated by the Government of Canada, mechanisms to resolve disputes between states and investors should be open and transparent and should reaffirm the ability of government to regulate in the public interest.

With respect to IP, the two concerns cited most often by witnesses appearing before the Committee related to the potential for increased drug costs in Canada resulting from the proposed extension of the patent term for pharmaceutical products, and the possibility that the extension of Canada’s copyright terms would be detrimental to the country because it is a net importer of IP content.

While the CPC “maintains our support for the agreement,” the committee suggests that after the US’ withdrawal from the TPP, “Canada must now pursue trade relations with Asia-Pacific countries.” The committee also sees “prospects for another FTA among some of the TPP countries,” such as Japan.

Below are committee’s 14 recommendations:

Recommendation 1

That, recognizing the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and wanting to conclude agreements that are in the best interests of Canadians, the Government of Canada actively pursue a trade and investment agreement with Trans-Pacific Partnership signatories, as well as additional trade and investment agreements in the Asia-Pacific region. These agreements should be pursued on a priority basis, and should supplement other measures designed to support the trade and investment activities of Canadian businesses in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recommendation 2

That the Government of Canada continue to involve provincial and territorial governments as it pursues negotiations for a trade and investment agreement with Trans-Pacific Partnership signatories, and with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recommendation 3

That the Government of Canada seek to resume negotiations with Japan for an economic partnership agreement.

Recommendation 4

That the Government of Canada ensure that any trade and investment agreement in the Asia-Pacific region include, as core elements, inclusive and enforceable progressive provisions in relation to the environment, health, labour and human rights. These provisions should be subjected to a gender-based assessment and reflect the high standard in these areas contained in the Canada–European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, specifically the agreement’s open and transparent mechanism to resolve disputes between states and investors.

Recommendation 5

That the Government of Canada undertake public consultations regarding the negotiation of any trade and investment agreement in the Asia-Pacific region. These consultations, which should be open, broad and inclusive, should include stakeholders who may not have been consulted in the past, such as Indigenous peoples and communities.

Recommendation 6

That the Government of Canada integrate commitments made at the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015 relating to the environment into future trade and investment agreements.

Recommendation 7

That the Government of Canada engage with the Canadian public, including the full range of stakeholders, to convey and discuss the benefits for Canada and the country’s economic prosperity of an open economy and international trade. This engagement should be ongoing, proactive, constructive and evidence-based.

Recommendation 8

That the Government of Canada develop a communications plan to publicize the provisions and benefits of any future agreement with Trans-Pacific Partnership signatories or other Asia-Pacific countries to Canadian businesses that wish to export to the Asia-Pacific region, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Recommendation 9

That the Government of Canada take action to ensure that Canadian infrastructure that facilitates trade is adequate, and meets the needs of Canadian businesses that engage in international trade.

Recommendation 10

That, to the extent possible and consistent with the Trans-Pacific Partnership consultations undertaken by the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade, the Government of Canada support Canadian businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, by taking the following three actions: provide training to businesses that are seeking to export; increase the visibility of services and tools available to these businesses; and explore the concept of a “one‑stop shop” where these businesses can access trade-related resources.

Recommendation 11

That, in negotiating future trade and investment agreements, the Government of Canada vigorously defend Canada’s supply-managed sectors. As well, the Government should ensure the existence of programs and initiatives designed to minimize the possible negative impacts that trade and investment agreements could have on these sectors’ producers and processors, including through innovation and diversification efforts.

Recommendation 12

That the Government of Canada identify non-tariff barriers that inhibit fair access to Trans-Pacific Partnership markets.

Recommendation 13

That the Government of Canada evaluate the impact of trade and investment agreements on Canadian workers, businesses and sectors. These evaluations should inform the development of future progressive trade and investment agreements.

Recommendation 14

That the Government of Canada, prior to the ratification of a trade and investment agreement, report any expected economic, labour, environmental, social and other outcomes in relation to that agreement.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad

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Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.