Canada explores joining the Pacific Alliance or RCEP at upcoming TPP-alternatives summit

Then-trade minister Chrystia Freeland signing the TPP in February 2016, now-trade minister François-Philippe Champagne is looking for a successor agreement at a March 2017 summit.

The Council of Canadians is keeping watch on an Asia-Pacific 'trade initiatives' meeting on March 14-15 in Chile that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trade minister François-Philippe Champagne will attend.

Reuters now reports, "Countries that signed up for the failed trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will meet in Chile next week, seeking a way forward on a possible future regional deal. Representatives from the 12 countries that formed the TPP, plus China and South Korea, will meet for the first time since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out the TPP in January. The Chile meeting is a sign efforts to find an alternative Asia-Pacific trade pact are moving ahead, with China now likely leading the talks after the United States dropped out."

The article adds, "Likely options could be to build on the base of pre-existing agreements - such as Latin America's four-country Pacific Alliance, or the proposed Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - [says Paulina Nazal Aranda, the General Director of International Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile]. Countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada had a 'similar commercial approach' to the Pacific Alliance and had signalled an interest in joining or negotiating as a bloc, said Nazal. 'Others evidently feel more comfortable with the RCEP model and they could open a door to let others in.'"

Pacific Alliance
This four-country bloc currently includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. In October 2012, Carlo Dade, a director at the Calgary-based right-wing Canada West Foundation, stated, "The Pacific Alliance is on track to begin negotiating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a bloc of 600 million people in 10 countries. China has also stated its desire to open talks with the Pacific Alliance." Canada gained observer status with the Pacific Alliance in November 2012. In May 2013, then prime minister Stephen Harper met with the leaders of the Pacific Alliance at a summit in Colombia to consider if Canada should join this bloc.

At the time of that summit, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “It’s highly symbolic that the first people Harper met when he got off the plane were mining company executives. The Pacific Alliance, like Canada’s existing trade and investment deals in Latin America, puts the profits of those companies above anything else. The deals, like the Alliance, have nothing to say about the environmental and human rights impact of mining in the region, which is more and more controversial, with growing resistance to Canadian mines in particular.”

Pacific Alliance members Chile, Mexico and Peru are signatories to the TPP.

RCEP
The 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam - and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements with - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. RCEP would cover goods, services, and investment, as well as competition, intellectual property rights, and dispute settlement.

RCEP includes seven TPP signatories: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, 47-days after the Trump administration scuttled the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trudeau government -- which signed the deal on February 4, 2016 -- still has not formally withdrawn from the deal. To call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trade Minister Champagne to formally withdraw from the TPP, please go to our online action alert here.

In the lead-up to next week's summit, The Council of Canadians has signed a civil society statement to the ministers who will be present there that says, "We believe it is not acceptable for TPP rules to be used as a model for future trade negotiations whether bilateral, regional or multilateral, including the World Trade Organisation. We urge you to accept that this model has failed, and to engage with us and others in a more open and democratic process to develop alternative approaches that genuinely serve the interests of our peoples, our nations and the planet."