The new Liberal government is reviewing the Conservative promise of up to $4.3 billion for quota-holding farmers as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Comments during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Manila indicate the Liberals are likely to approve the TPP deal, but not necessarily the compensation package.
Trudeau and his trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, said they favour improved trade relations among the 12 TPP nations and that Canada is reviewing the deal because that was a campaign promise.
Canadian Press reports that Freeland said her government is not bound by the compensation commitment of the Conservatives, which was made by its cabinet during the federal election campaign.
One of the features of that Tory promise is a 10-year guarantee that quota holders’ profits will not decline, plus a further five years of phasing down of the profit support.
The package would also guarantee no decline in quota prices for sales made within the first 10 years.
Nobody else affected by the trade deal has any promises of any compensation.
Freeland's assessment came in Manila on Wednesday at the same Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders' summit where U.S. President Barack Obama made an impassioned pitch to the leaders of the 12 TPP countries — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — to ratify the deal as quickly as possible.
The APEC gathering brought together all 12 TPP countries for the first time since the historic deal, which covers 40 per cent of the global economy, was announced on Oct. 5.
"We appreciate the importance of compensation to affected sectors," said Freeland. "It would be very inappropriate for us to commit to specific packages given that we're actually reviewing the agreement overall."
Freeland said she had good conversations about the issue with Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains before leaving Canada.
"We are reviewing now what the compensation plans will be, and I am not going to make commitments for my fellow ministers who are back home in Canada."
Freeland reiterated what the government has been telling its fellow 11 TPP partners in Manila: that it is pro-trade, realizes the importance of the deal to the Canadian economy, but that it made an election campaign promise to put the deal before the country.
She said she is also telling them "that the TPP was not negotiated by our government, it was negotiated by the previous government and our job now is to carefully review the text and consult." Freeland said she is encountering "great understanding" of that position among its TPP partners.
Obama is telling the politicians to buck up and approve the deal. He said "TPP is at the heart of our shared vision for the future of this dynamic region."
"Today, we're going to discuss the road ahead to ensure that TPP is enacted in each of our countries as swiftly as possible. Obviously, execution is critical after we have arrived at the text."
Obama said called the pact "the highest standard and most progressive trade deal ever concluded," citing its strong protections for workers, prohibitions against child labour and labour, and environmental protection — all of it enforceable.