Negotiators are going to try to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, this time without the United States because U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out.
The loss of access to the U.S. market is so important that the deal needs to be re-negotiated.
Japan and New Zealand have been leading the efforts to revive the deal. Both countries have ratified the agreement and moved forward on legislation related to the deal.
But Canadian officials stress that even the countries most enthusiastic about the previous agreement understand that it must be significantly altered before it can move forward.
Canada’s dairy industry is likely to face even greater pressure now that the U.S. is out because New Zealand and Australia are major dairy exporters operating with minimal government subsidies or supports. The U.S. offers its dairy farmers significant supports.
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said the remaining countries are open to others joining provided they accept the trade agreement’s high standards on labour and environmental protection. He said the door remains open to the U.S. It and China would be the biggest prizes.
Supporters of the agreement argue that opening the Canadian economy to foreign markets could benefit sectors including forestry, manufacturing and agriculture, especially production of canola, beef and pork.
But there are also concerns about intellectual property provisions, including patent extensions, as well as the potential for job loss within Canada.
Sujata Dey, trade campaigner for the social action organization The Council of Canadians, called the TPP “a huge corporate power grab” that should be abandoned completely rather than re-worked. The group takes particular issue with the policy’s investor-state dispute settlement, which allows companies to sue governments over any regulations that reduce their profits.
“These trade agreements are old-school because our world problems have changed,” Dey said, citing environmental crises. “Until we stop copying and cutting the old trade agreement that we’ve been doing for the last 30 years, it’s not going to be a trade agreement that works for our new reality.”
In response, a Liberal government official who did not want to be named indicated that the concerns of Canadians will be taken into account in formulating a new deal. Trying to sell a new version of the TPP to the public that doesn’t include free and progressive fair trade would be an uphill battle for the federal government, he said.
The China-led 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will meet Monday in Hanoi to further discussions on a separate deal seen as an alternative to the TPP. It is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.
On another front, the European deal with Canada took a step backward when a court ruled that every nation member of the European Union will have a vote on whether to approve the deal.
The issue Dey raised about lawsuits is also controversial in that deal.