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Liberal Trade Minister on TPP: Do not trust me on this

Posted On 2022-05-16 00:00:00

It isn’t enough that the Liberal government is squandering a $7.5 billion surplus left to them by the previous Conservative government, as confirmed by the current Finance Minister’s own department. The Liberals are now purposefully delaying having to make a decision on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement until after the U.S. Presidential election, essentially letting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton dictate Canada’s foreign trade policy.

The TPP represents a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the multilateral trading system and develop 21st century rules that protect and promote Canada’s economic interests. It will eliminate significant trade barriers, beyond tariffs, to our small and medium sized businesses. It will provide new opportunities to expand and diversify our market access into the Pacific Rim, an area which has and will continue to experience strong growth for years to come. More importantly, private sector trade can grow our economy without spending billions of tax dollars that we do not have.

There is no disagreement amongst Federal parties that Canada is a trading nation; the difference lies in when we’re asked to support that statement with action. I was proud to be part of a government that concluded negotiations on trade agreements with 46 different countries. In contrast, the Liberal party’s entire trade history consists of three small trade agreements.

Last week, to help move this important initiative, the Official Opposition brought forth a motion on the TPP to expedite what the Liberals refuse to deliver, to table legislation and debate the agreement in the House of Commons.

This was a chance for International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, to reverse her party’s hit and miss record on trade and voice her support for the most comprehensive trade agreement in over 20 years. At the very least she could explain to Canadians how her party can justifiably claim to be pro-trade yet remain tone deaf to the provincial Premiers and vast majority of stakeholders, organizations, and business leaders who call on her government to ratify the TPP at the earliest opportunity.

In her defining moment the Minister stood in the House and chose not to be a leader, nor did she affirm her party’s support for those families and businesses that rely on Canada’s deepening participation in global commerce. Instead, the Minister offered lip service in the absence of actionable commitments, platitudes over certainty to investors, and an enthusiastic pledge to continue riding on the coattails of the previous government’s accomplishments.

The contempt exhibited for a trade deal that represents almost 800 million consumers with a combined GDP of $29 trillion, and accounts for almost 40 per cent of the world’s economy, was evident when the Minister felt the need to peddle the falsehoods and exaggerations that her anti-trade entourage rely on, in satisfying their confirmation biases.

“The Conservatives did not consult,” she exclaimed with feigned indignation.

The Minister then had the audacity to say, “Do not trust me on this. Listen to Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, who recently said to the press:

‘No one in a position of authority invested in industry consultation before being dealt a terrible hand by major trading partners that did not have Canadian interests at heart when they negotiated the terms in our absence.’”

Caught in a frantic attempt to rebuild her government’s crumbling narrative for simulated consultations, Minister Freeland neglected to fact check and also forgot that the previous International Trade Minister, Ed Fast, who most definitely was in a position of authority during TPP negotiations, was sitting meters away across the aisle. He immediately stood up to correct the record:

“Madam Speaker… I just want to disabuse the member of one thing. I met with Flavio Volpe well before trade negotiations on TPP were completed. In fact, it was Canada that walked away from the table in Maui exactly because the auto part outcome was not to our liking and because the supply management outcome was not to our liking. We walked away, and then when we went back to Atlanta to finalize the agreement, we got a superior outcome on both of those.”

Oops. The Minister’s best excuse for the facade of consultations is predicated on someone who seems to have an aversion to the truth or at least a revisionist view of history. Indeed, the Trade Minister demonstrates negligence and a lack of seriousness on her file. Thanks, but Canadian’s trust will remain with my colleague the Hon. Ed Fast, Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s chief negotiator for the TPP and her world class team of professionals.

Ms. Hillman has given countless hours of evidence, during TPP negotiations and afterwards, to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade and to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, as to the robust nature of the consultative process our previous government and her team diligently undertook.

Reading through Ms. Hillman’s evidence and those of other witnesses, it’s rather clear the Liberal government’s excuse for mock consultations are based on a false pretence. The lack of political leadership and commitment to honour their promise to allow Members of Parliament a timely and full debate on the TPP agreement is worrisome.

Refusing to accept the facts while she willingly forfeits Canada’s foreign policy decisions; it’s no wonder the Liberal Trade Minister urges Canadians to not trust her, nor should they.

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