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Trudeau government pursues post-TPP deal at meeting in Chile, March 14-15

Vina del Mar.

Trade minister François-Philippe Champagne will attend a meeting in Vina del Mar, Chile on March 14-15 to discuss ‘trade initiatives’ in the Asia-Pacific region.

In October 2015, just after the Harper government had concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stated, “The Liberal Party of Canada strongly supports free trade, as this is how we open markets to Canadian goods and services, grow Canadian businesses, create good-paying jobs, and provide choice and lower prices to Canadian consumers. The Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade for Canada, and increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.”

By January 2017 the TPP had been derailed when US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the deal.

Now, The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada and China are joining a mid-March summit hosted by Chile on how to advance trade in Asia-Pacific. It’s the first effort to move beyond the rubble of the TPP deal – dead since Washington’s exit – and offers a possible way for Beijing to take the lead on influencing how trade should deepen between the West and Asia. Chilean officials say they have invited all 12 countries that participated in the TPP talks as well as South Korea and China, which did not.” The Chilean ambassador to Canada says, “The objective of this summit is to have an open-ended discussion about the different trade initiatives in the wider Asia-Pacific region.”

It’s not yet clear if the Trump administration will send a representative to participate in this multilateral forum.

The CBC reports that the countries at this meeting could use the TPP as the basis of a new agreement without the United States. Janyce McGregor notes the remaining partners still theoretically agree to the common principles they reached in October 2015, but that some new negotiations would be required without the US in the deal. She writes, “For example, some market access or tariff trade-offs may have been worth it for some partners in return for what they’d gain from the Americans. Without the U.S. on the inside, countries may no longer be willing to make the same concessions — the math has changed, to say the least. But some TPP chapters may be entirely transferrable to a future arrangement between the remaining countries. If the will to proceed exists, they may not need to re-invent everything.”

Council of Canadian chairperson Maude Barlow has commented, “I’ve watched these trade agreements for a long time. The TPP is not dead til it’s dead.”

Other ‘trade initiatives’ that could be discussed include:

  • The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which involves all twelve TPP signatory countries.

  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves seven TPP signatory countries plus nine other countries, most notably China, South Korea and India.

  • The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which involves eight TPP signatory countries plus numerous other countries.

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Area (AFTA), which involves four TPP signatory countries plus seven other countries.

  • The Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was set aside when both countries joined TPP talks.

  • The Canada-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The Council of Canadians celebrates the apparent demise of the TPP, but also rejects its possible multilateral successors (the FTAAP, RCEP, TiSA, AFTA or a TPP with China, South Korea and India) and bilateral agreements (such as the Canada-Japan EPA and the Canada-China FTA). All these deals are designed to advance economic liberalization policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, government spending cuts, and greater power for transnational capital.