Canada threw away its leverage on TPP ahead of NAFTA talks: APMA President
OTTAWA -- Canada and the remaining members of the old Trans-Pacific Partnership agreed Tuesday to a revised trade agreement that will forge ahead without the United States, opening distant new markets at a time of uncertainty closer to home.
The deal comes exactly one year after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the agreement, leaving Japan as the largest player in a new 11-nation pact that spans two hemispheres and includes both U.S. neighbours.
The agreement follows two days of high-level talks in Tokyo. The partners are now expected to work toward signing the agreement by early March.
"The agreement reached in Tokyo today is the right deal," Trudeau said in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"Our government stood up for Canadian interests and this agreement meets our objectives."
Trudeau added that the deal is a new step on the path to ensuring the benefits of trade are shared by all citizens, not just the few.
Right up until the announcement, the Canadian government was pushing for more progress on negotiations surrounding the automotive and cultural sectors.
A government official said International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne pressed his counterparts for an exemption on culture-related elements that had been part of the original TPP deal. The official said Canada will protect its cultural sector in the updated deal through legally binding side letters with each partner.
The autos component risks being more controversial.
In a sector considered key to the deal, Canada managed to get a bilateral arrangement with Japan to resolve non-tariff barriers, including a binding dispute settlement mechanism, according to an official. The official said the side agreement brings into force key commitments made by Japan to Canada and the U.S. in the original deal, but which were lost when the U.S. pulled out.
The new deal also includes a bilateral agreement with Malaysia to adjust auto rules-of-origin and another agreement was being finalized with Australia, the official added.
But a major Canadian auto-parts association offered a scathing reaction.
Flavio Volpe of the Auto Parts Manufacturers' Association said this agreement will make getting favourable NAFTA terms much harder for the Canadian negotiating team, as they sit down for a new round of talks in Montreal.
"I think that we threw away a whole bunch of leverage when we didn't have to on TPP," Volpe told BNN in an interview on Tuesday.
He worried that the Americans' push for a new NAFTA that will limit access to Chinese auto parts is incongruous to granting greater access to Canada and Mexico for its Asian trading partners.
"We're going to have that discussion with them and say: 'Yes, we understand you. We've got some creative solutions. Let's see how we can build a Fortress North America,'" Volpe told BNN. "Meanwhile, we’ve conceded on much lesser terms access [for Canada's TPP partners] to Mexico and to Canada ... I don't know how we reconcile the two in Montreal."
Volpe said that today's announcement indicates to him that the terms of TPP haven't changed since Canada first signed in 2015, making Tuesday's signing problematic.
“I will infer - and [Champagne] can explain if I’m wrong - that we did not touch rules of origin," Volpe told BNN. "So if they were bad in 2015, 2016, 2017, they’re still bad today.”
Jerry Dias, head of the union that represents Canadian auto workers, was equally critical.
"This isn't the kind of transparent governance Cdns were promised," the Unifor president tweeted. "Let's be clear, the TPP is the worst trade deal ever!"
Canada, the second-largest economy among the partners, was widely considered the main holdout in the negotiations to revive the pact -- rebranded last fall as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership -- without the U.S.
The Tokyo negotiations were the first high-level talks since the leaders of the partner economies met in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Danang, Vietnam.
Trudeau made international headlines there by deciding not to sign an agreement-in-principle on what became known as TPP11 following the U.S. withdrawal. Trudeau's decision in Vietnam to continue negotiating for a better deal, rather than striking an agreement, led to the abrupt cancellation of a TPP leaders' meeting in Danang.
After Trudeau declined to attend the scheduled meeting in Danang, there were reports his decision angered Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
On Tuesday in his Davos speech, Trudeau made a point of mentioning Abe.
"I also want to specifically and personally thank Prime Minister Abe for hosting the recent talks and for his continued and extraordinary leadership in reaching this positive outcome," Trudeau said.
Back in Canada, industry leaders, many of whom had actively lobbied Ottawa to commit to the Pacific Rim deal long ago, applauded news of the agreement.
Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, tweeted that the "TPP will provide lots of new opportunities for Canadian small firms at a time of trade uncertainty with the US."
John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association tweeted: "Great news for Canada's beef producers and job creation in Canada as a whole! Helpful for NAFTA talks too."
Many believed the original TPP had suffered a fatal blow when Trump withdrew from the deal in his first week as president.
The government official said Trudeau has been bringing up the Asia-Pacific trade pact in recent months every time he's had conversations with leaders from the other partner economies. Over the last week, he discussed the deal with the leaders of New Zealand and Chile by phone.
Trudeau also dispatched well-connected Vancouver Economic Commission chief executive Ian McKay as his personal envoy at this week's negotiations in Japan, the official said. McKay joined Canada's chief and deputy chief negotiators in Tokyo.
Besides Canada, the new deal's partners are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
Most importantly, the deal will open up access for Canada to Japan's economy, the third-largest in the world. Canada's agricultural, seafood and forestry sectors would see some of the greatest benefits, the official said.
The official insisted that Champagne and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland also remained engaged with their counterparts in recent months.
They added that Trudeau's principal secretary, Gerald Butts, met with Japan's ambassador last week to discuss the deal.
Asked by reporters earlier Tuesday whether he was aware of the deal, Trudeau said while walking past them in Davos: "Who do you think has been working hard at it behind the scenes."
- With files from Alexander Panetta in Montreal