No guarantees on Pacific trade, despite Harper’s 180

A stroll through Kapolei

In an OpEd published in the Nov. 14 Globe and Mail, I talk about the importance of Canada getting serious about joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.  I also caution that Harper’s announcement does not make this a done deal.  There are many in the U.S. and New Zealand who need to be convinced of Canada’s importance to the negotiations.   The White House announcement simply says that the U.S. negotiating team “will continue talks with others whho have expressed interest.”  Hardly a green light.

The TPP is Canada’s best hope for short-term access to vital emerging markets in Southeast Asia.   Canada has tried and failed to get a trade deal with South Korea and the sclerotic negotiations with China for an investment protection agreement have stretched beyond seven years.  But, the TPP is not just about Asia, it is also about Canada’s relations with our most important trading partner and the importance of maintaining a competitive North American trading bloc within Asian and global markets.  U.S. Secretary of State Clinton announced last month that the United States is embracing the Pacific century; ramped up trade and investment agreements with Asia are top priority.  If Canada is not at the table when the United States is negotiating the terms of its future economic relations in Asia, if Canada cannot conceive of itself as a Pacific nation, and if Canada cannot figure a way to prevent our pampered dairy farmers from trumping our national interests, Canada will soon find itself passed over for foreign investment, paying too much for market access and governed by trade rules we had no hand in negotiating.

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