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TPP is now the PPT: Procrastinating on Pro-Trade

Posted On 2022-05-18 00:00:00

TPP is now the PPT: Procrastinating on Pro-Trade

Liberals have it all backwards

The Liberal government’s repeated claim to be pro-trade is trespassing upon the grounds of credulity. The Liberal government has long passed its probationary period, but Canadians whose livelihoods depend on trade continue to get lip service instead of legislation, a trade minister who values self-promotion over trade promotion, and a government that believes it’s immune to scrutiny.

The governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, said recently that “International trade is the lifeblood of the global economy. Firms, consumers, and investors alike all rely on it to keep the economy growing, create and sustain jobs, and deliver investment returns.” What that means for a trading nation like Canada, is that to achieve long-term economic growth and prosperity, to spur innovation and improve standards of living, participation in the global economy is not voluntary but mandatory.

Media reports suggest the Liberals have chosen to prioritize the completion of a free trade agreement with China over concluded agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Ironically, ratifying the TPP would place Canada in a stronger position to negotiate a mutually beneficial trade deal with China.

The TPP is the best opportunity to strengthen the multilateral trading system and develop rules that protect Canada’s economic interests. The Liberal government must send a strong signal to Canadian businesses and our closest allies that it supports international commerce. We’ve had a long history in that respect. Canada once sat at the table with the United States, European Union, and Japan as part of the Quad, which led General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade rounds for decades. While our influence is not insignificant, it needs to be fed through continued leadership. We now have a real opportunity to stand side by side with our allies and shape the future of trade within North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The next few months will determine the TPP’s future, and we should not be watching from the sidelines.

The rules-based competition brought by free trade agreements will drive Canadian export companies to increase productivity and innovation. Companies making those investment decisions will seek out other jurisdictions that are more clearly committed to free trade.

It’s time for the Liberal government to be open with Canadians as well as our allies and tell them whether they support the biggest trade agreement in over 20 years. They have consulted on the TPP for more than six months now and have tens of thousands of pages of submissions and testimony from Canadians. Ongoing delays are nothing but stall tactics, because this government is incapable of making a decision.

Consultations are of course welcomed; indeed the previous Conservative government consulted Canadians thoroughly, as confirmed by witness testimonies in the House Trade Committee during the previous and current sessions of Parliament. Conducting TPP hearings as a current member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, I have yet to hear anything new or substantive that I hadn’t heard during consultations whilst in government. Even most opponents of the TPP realize the text of the agreement cannot change and view the current consultative process as a monumental waste of time.

The TPP is a contentious issue in Washington now, but the political climate in the United States should not dictate Canada’s policy positions when it comes to international trade, and it certainly should not preclude us from being a leader on the world stage. That means if the TPP does not come into force, Canada must be ready to forge a new agreement with the 10 remaining signatories.

The value of having North American leaders stand united for trade, against the storm clouds of protectionism, is why I call upon the Liberal government to make a decision on the TPP agreement by June 29 for the North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa.

On April 14, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “Canada’s word needs to mean something in the international community. It is important that people know that when they sign a deal with Canada, when we sign a commercial agreement, a change in government isn’t going to lead to that contract being ripped up.”

Mr. Trudeau has the opportunity to uphold that promise. On June 29, he can honour Canada’s word by saying he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership or he can rip up the agreement standing next to U.S. and Mexican presidents Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto.

If the Liberals want people to believe they are pro-trade then Canada can no longer remain silent on the TPP.

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