Having received the blessing of US Congress on October 9th, Canada will take its seat at the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating table in New Zealand on December 3rd for the 15th round of negotiations towards what is being dubbed a “next generation 21st century trade agreement”.

Some progress has been made in areas such as market access, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, cross-border services, and government procurement.

But with TPP partners putting off major political decisions until after the U.S. election, Canada has ample opportunity to participate in negotiations in the key areas. (So far, the only finalized text in the agreement is a relatively non-controversial chapter on small business.)

As negotiations unfold over the next several months, it will become clear where Canadian and American interests and positions will converge, and where there will be dissonance. Canada’s addition to the TPP could bolster US positions in areas like investor-state dispute settlement, disciplines on state-owned enterprises, and technical barriers to trade/regulatory cooperation. At the same time, the two countries could butt heads over agricultural market access (particularly in dairy and poultry), government procurement (where Canada is seeking reciprocal access to US sub-federal markets) and intellectual property rights.

Several of these trickier areas are also proving to be significant obstacles in Canada-EU trade talks. Although the goal to end those talks is the end of this year, political hot potatoes like intellectual property rights in the pharmaceutical sector and market access for European cheeses have delayed a conclusion to the negotiations. The commitments that Canada makes in these areas and others, including government procurement, will provide insight into what we can expect to see from Canada in the TPP.

In light of the stagnation in WTO trade talks, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the only multilateral forum addressing the issues and controversies that were roadblocks to progress in the Doha Round. For Canada and Mexico, the TPP presents both opportunities and risks in addressing North American trade issues that were neglected in the NAFTA or that have emerged since then. Dawson Strategic continues to monitor progress closely as the agreement takes shape. Stay tuned for future analysis and publications. If you have a specific area of concern in the TPP, or if you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.