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Why Canada should celebrate the Trans-Pacific Partnership

The editorial: Whatever the political ramifications, here’s why the TPP deal is a win for Canadians


 
Dozens of dairy farmers from Ontario and Quebec gathered on Parliament Hill to raise concerns about protecting Canada's supply management system in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Dozens of dairy farmers from Ontario and Quebec gathered on Parliament Hill to raise concerns about protecting Canada’s supply management system in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Regardless of our vast expanse, seemingly limitless resources and envy-inducing standard of living, Canada is not a large country, economically. We are a “small, open economy” in textbook parlance, crucially dependent on foreign markets to buy what we have to sell, and to provide Canadian consumers with a wider and cheaper variety of goods from abroad. And, as with most things, the best sort of trade is free: free from tariffs, restrictions and other government-imposed barriers. So whatever the political ramifications, this week’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal should be properly celebrated by all Canadians for putting our country at the forefront of international trade and helping to ensure our future prosperity.

The TTP involves a dozen Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Malaysia. It will provide Canadians with largely tariff-free access to a market of 800 million consumers accounting for nearly $30 trillion in economic activity, plus deliver lower prices at home. Knitting together this community of fast-growing trading partners will also create a bulwark against the growing economic and military dominance of China. What is crucial, we will become the only G-7 country to have free-trade access to the U.S., South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific; the TPP thus offers Canada a unique position as pivot point for worldwide trade. “This is a big deal, and a great deal,” Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said in making the announcement. It is.

But with an election just around the corner, the TPP must be viewed from a political, as well as an economic, perspective. Once again, the results are significant and far-reaching.

So how should voters judge this deal, in light of the rest of Harper’s legacy?

The Conservative government has been widely chastized for many underhanded, divisive and regrettable political manoeuvres. Here we include such things as omnibus legislation, the current niqab debate, the worrisome erosion in the quality of the census, and foolish “tough on crime” policies in the face of falling crime rates. Criticism on these grounds is entirely deserved. And yet, when it comes to many of the biggest and most important aspects of running a country, Harper has demonstrated a satisfying ability to get things right. We refer here to the direction of taxes and government spending, the fact that Quebec nationalism is in abeyance, the relative peace in federal-provincial health-care funding, as well as Canada’s more purposeful and coherent presence on the world stage. But Harper’s commitment to trade, covering dozens of bilateral deals, last year’s European pact and, now, the TPP, stands as his signature achievement.

That even the obstreperous Dairy Farmers of Canada—whose members had the most to lose from open borders—have called the deal “fair” hints at Harper’s commitment to square the TPP circle. Of course, their acquiescence has been bought with $4.3 billion set aside to compensate farmers for loss of income and/or quota value over the next 15 years. While it would have been preferable to eliminate supply management in its entirety, and it’s lamentable that 12,000 dairy farmers could have held the country hostage on such an important matter, by 2030, it seems reasonable to assume we’ll finally be able to take the dairy, egg and poultry sectors off welfare support. A similar observation holds for the auto-parts sector, which has been promised an additional $1 billion over 10 years to win their silence. The price of achieving this deal is not unreasonable.

For Harper’s competitors, the deal presents a problem. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s claim that his party “will not consider itself bound to any [TPP] agreement” should be deeply troubling for all but the most die-hard isolationists within his ranks. Canada simply cannot afford to be left outside a deal that includes its biggest trading partners and the crucial opportunities of the Asia-Pacific region. Mulcair’s stance seems a throwback to the NDP’s bad old days of economic illiteracy and political irrelevancy. And Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s focus on the alleged “secrecy” of the deal can be dismissed as so much political bluster. Trade deals are never successfully negotiated in public. (Remember the disastrous World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999?)

Given the opportunities at stake—and the fact opponents such as dairy farmers and the auto sector have already accepted it—it’s virtually impossible to imagine a federal government turning down this deal, regardless of who wins the coming election. Canada is, and must remain, a trading nation. And so if Harper happens to be defeated on Oct.19, for whatever reason, the TPP may go down as the best and least selfish thing he ever did for his country.


 

Why Canada should celebrate the Trans-Pacific Partnership

  1. Funny…..I don’t see any dancing in the streets…..just cows.

    I don’t even see any Cons on this site….and there used to be a whole crowd of them

    These days it’s just ……crickets

  2. Great we get a wider and cheaper variety of crappy poorly made goods from abroad. Have you seen all the dollar stores that have opened up lately, gross! No thanks. Enrich the rich. I wonder how much the Harper loving author of this article was paid to pen this crap. Why all the secrecy surrounding the deal then? The only thing I’ll be celebrating is Oct 19th when Harper is done.*sigh* Really, what will it take until people realize that the Harper government is NOT looking out for the interests of the average Canadian?

  3. What I never hear is how the TPP addresses subsidies. After all agricultural subsidies are the largest problem with Canada competing as we know how the US subsidizes their farmers, or manufacturing for that matter.

    I think that this idea that Canada is a trading nation is nothing more than rhetoric. What country is not a trading nation? If trade is so important to Canada then why is the upcoming 18 billion dollar trade deficit that Canada is going to have not important?

    My question is what good is it trying to compete when the playing field is not level? Is that not the purpose of tariffs in the first place?

  4. NZ tariff savings amount to $259 million/year for their exports.(article in NZ Herald)
    NZ has to remove tariffs of $20 million/year for their imports.
    Dairy now NZ to Canada 13,000 tons Canada to NZ 30 tons
    Harmonization of food standards. Are we going to allow PKE trans fat milk to be allowed because it is cheap? Well maybe not cheap…prices for food and autos has been predicted to fall very little.
    Are Canadian consumers so sure that the Conservatives are going to keep their food safe? I’m not.
    Maybe a large multinational food giant will have a Volkswagon moment.

  5. The TPP will have the same ISDS clauses that NAFTA has.
    Since 2005 Canada has been sued 36X under that agreement.
    Canada has already paid out $190 million and has $1 billion on deck waiting for NAFTA ISDS panel rulings.
    Canada has paid out an additional $65 million in legal costs.

  6. “While it would have been preferable to eliminate supply management in its entirety, and it’s lamentable that 12,000 dairy farmers could have held the country hostage on such an important matter, by 2030, it seems reasonable to assume we’ll finally be able to take the dairy, egg and poultry sectors off welfare support.”

    I think it would be eminently more beneficial to our country’s economy to take the oil and gas industry off welfare support rather than the dairy, egg and poultry group.

  7. “… it seems reasonable to assume we’ll finally be able to take the dairy, egg and poultry sectors off welfare support.”
    What “welfare support”?
    Dairy farmers in Canada receive no (I repeat, for clarity — no) subsidies from taxpayers, unlike dairy farmers in the US and NZ, who are subsidized. Supply management gives Canadian dairy farmers the collective market power to negotiate payment contracts with processors (such as Neilson’s or Saputo), based on cost of production. Retail prices are set by the retailers.
    So, Maclean’s editorial board — explain what you are referring to in your phrase “welfare support”? And if you can’t explain it, print a correction and an apology to the dairy farmers, like me and my family, who work seven days a week to produce a safe, nutritious food for Canadians.
    And here, without comment, is some information for your readers — the Canadian Heritage department website reports that Maclean’s was approved for $1.5 million in “aid to publishers” in each of the past five years.

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