Canada to enter free trade talks with Asia-Pacific block

Canada is set to join negotiations for a massive free-trade agreement with nine other countries, including the United States, Australia, Singapore and Chile.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in a statement on Tuesday the current members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to accept Canada into the talks of the potential deal. On Monday, the previous negotiating members of the TPP had agreed to invite Mexico to the talks.

A statement from the PMO was released Tuesday from Los Cabos, Mexico, where Harper is wrapping the G20 summit. With the inclusion of Mexico and Canada, a potential free trade agreement with the other countries in the TPP–the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam–would account for 658 million people and a combined GDP of $20.5 trillion.

Harper’s official words in the statement said “joining the TPP would provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses.” Critics of the government’s voracious appetite to close free trade deals were quick to respond. The Liberal Party’s international trade critic, Wayne Easter, released a statement calling on the government “to be transparent and provide details of this trade negotiation,” singling out the preservation of Canada’s supply management system.

Industry Minister Christian Paradis said before question period, “We always said that we stand by supply management,” the CBC reports.

The Globe and Mail found a number of experts and critics who suggested many issues will remain contentious for Ottawa on the TPP negotiating table.

Related link: Mexico in, Canada still waiting, for a seat at Pacific region trade talks (John Geddes)

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