Canada under Pressure from Obama for Quick TPP Approval*
By Bill Curry
U.S. President Barack Obama is pressuring Canada and the other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to approve the trade deal as quickly as possible.
The 12 leaders of TPP nations met Wednesday for the first time since they announced the deal in October and released the text on Nov. 5. The closed-door meeting was also the first opportunity for Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with TPP leaders to discuss the deal negotiated under the Conservatives.
“Today, we’re going to discuss the road ahead to ensure that TPP is enacted in each of our countries as swiftly as possible,” said Mr. Obama, according to remarks released by the White House.
Mr. Trudeau’s government is taking an officially neutral position on the deal in Manila, arguing that it needs time to allow for the consultations they promised during the recent election. However the government has also dropped hints that it will ultimately sign on to the deal.
“Our commitment is to consult and that is what we are going to do,” said federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, who attended the TPP meeting at the Sofitel hotel in Manila.
“Our commitment is, and the Prime Minister spoke about this also with our partners, to have a Parliamentary debate.”
As the government weighs whether or not to support the deal, it is also studying the issue of compensation for affected Canadian industries.
The Conservative cabinet approved a $4.3-billion compensation package for dairy, poultry and egg farmers. The offer was announced during the election campaign along with the announcement of the deal. The Conservatives also promised $1-billion for Canada’s auto sector but that was an election promise rather than a government announcement.
Ms. Freeland said she recently discussed the issue of compensation with Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains.
“We are reviewing now what the compensation plans will be and I am not going to make commitments for my fellow ministers who are back home in Canada,” she said.
“But let me say we appreciate the importance of compensation to affected sectors by TPP. And let me also say it would be very inappropriate right now for us to commit to specific packages given that we’re actually reviewing the agreement overall.”
Mr. MacAulay has previously stated that he is likely to support the trade deal.
The full text of more than 6,000 pages was not released until Nov. 5 – a day after the new cabinet was sworn in – leaving the new Liberal government to manage criticism from Canada’s auto sector that the U.S. got a better deal than Canada in terms of protecting local jobs.
Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion are in Manila to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, a gathering of 21 Pacific economies, including Russia and China.
However the meeting also presents the first opportunity for the 12 member nations of the TPP to discuss reaction to the text. All 12 countries are members of APEC, but the TPP excludes Russia and China.
Some of the loudest TPP critics are in Mr. Obama’s own party, as both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have attacked the deal in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election.
One of the strongest criticisms of the deal in Canada has come from the auto sector, which objects to provisions that will allow Japanese auto imports into Canada much sooner than they would be allowed to enter into the United States.
The deal would allow Japanese vehicles to enter Canada duty free within five years of the agreement coming into force. In contrast, the United States negotiated a 25 year timeline for phasing out similar tariffs.
Mr. Trudeau met Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit. The two men discussed trade but no further details were released.
On Thursday, Mr. Trudeau is scheduled to hold his first bilateral meeting with the U.S. President.
Mr. Trudeau arrives at APEC following a stop in Antalya, Turkey for the G20 summit, where he delivered a speech on the need for stimulus to promote economic growth and then posed for selfies with excited audience members.
The celebrity tone to Mr. Trudeau’s tour has ramped up in Manila.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer put a photo of Mr. Trudeau on the front page next to a photo of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
“Ladies’ Choice: ’Are you with Team Nieto or Team Trudeau?’ easily becomes the question of the hour,” the caption stated, describing the two as “APEC hotties” who are “trending on social media.”
An accompanying front page news story is titled: “Girls have only eyes for Trudeau, Nieto,” and described the local welcome Mr. Trudeau received at the airport.
“A group of smartphone-toting airport employees and staff of the Bureau of Immigration took time off to get a glimpse of the 43-year-old Canadian Prime Minister when he landed,” the story states. “Aware of Trudeau’s popularity, a member of the Malacanang media office earlier reminded journalists covering his arrival against shouting and making shrieks.”