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Asia trade deal signed, ratification next hurdle

Parliament must now approve the pact as the next step towards implementation

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership has been signed but it still faces a long road toward implementation.

Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne hedged when asked how quickly the government will move to achieve parliamentary ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Speaking to reporters after signing the deal in Santiago, Chile, he said he didn’t want to speculate about the timing issue.

“We have to be respectful of Parliament; we’ll expedite it as quickly as possible,” he said.

A wide array of agri-food groups have urged fast action on introduction of legislation to ratify the free trade deal with 10 Pacific countries.

Before he returns to Canada, Champagne will attend a meeting intended to launch negotiations on a free trade deal with the four Mercosur countries in Latin America — Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

“There’s never been a better time to diversify our trading relationships,” he said.

However, given Canada’s contentious relationship with Brazil, no one expects an early agreement in these talks.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance have all urged quick implementation of the CPTPP to ensure Canada receives full access to the Japanese market. Leah Olson, president of the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada, said her organization also supports Canadian participation in the CPTPP because it will help diversify the industry.

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Champagne said the CPTPP countries have a population of 495 million which in combination with the European trade partnership gives Canada better access to 1.7 billion consumers.

The government will have to introduce legislation in Parliament to ratify the CPTPP. With probably 10 weeks of sittings before the summer break, it could easily take until the fall to secure passage in the Commons. That could push Senate approval into 2019. The deal won’t come into force until 60 days have passed after it has been ratified by six signatory countries. CAFTA and the other agri-food groups are pushing for Canada to be among the first wave of countries.

CAFTA sent a delegation to Chile for the CPTPP signing ceremony. President Brian Innes said, “Securing preferential access to Japan is especially important, since it is the third-largest market for Canadian agriculture and agri-food products, accounting for $4 billion in exports in 2016. Getting this agreement in place will go a long way towards meeting the government’s ambitious goal of $75 billion in agri-food exports by 2025.”

The government says the deal could provide a $4.2-billion boost to Canada’s GDP over the long term. In addition, Canadian exporters are set to realize tariff savings of $428 million, $338 million on exports to Japan alone.

CAFTA is also highlighting a provision in Budget 2018, which allocated $75 million over five years to increase the number of Canadian diplomats and trade commissioners in Asia as well as trade discussions with the Pacific Alliance, Mercosur and ASEAN.

Participating in the CPTPP will give Canada a competitive advantage over the U.S. in these markets. It also levels the playing field for Canadian agri-food exports with other CPTPP countries — like Australia — that already have free trade agreements with Japan, Innes said.

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