The Trudeau government won’t be pressured by the Conservatives or business lobbies into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the public has been consulted about it, says Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.
She told Conservative trade critic Gerry Ritz in the Commons that the deal is not even open yet for ratification or a signature. A tentative agreement was reached among 12 countries during the Oct. 19 election campaign.
Trade experts have said the TPP deal, which hinges on U.S. congressional approval, likely won’t have to be approved until 2017.
The Liberal government supports free trade, Freeland said. “We understand that on a deal this big, it is essential to consult Canadians and have a full parliamentary debate.” The Liberals have yet to indicate how they plan to consult the public.
Ritz worked on the TPP negotiations as agriculture minister in the former government. He has called on Freeland “to stop stalling and sign the deal.” He has also criticized her for saying it’s not her job to promote the TPP deal.
Jacques Gourde, the Conservatives deputy agriculture critic, challenged Freeland to support a Conservative promise to compensate dairy and poultry farmers for economic losses the TPP might cause.
She replied that the Trudeau government is “committed to ensuring full transparency and having a full debate in Parliament. We will stand up for Canadian farmers.” She and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay have personally assured farmers on trade issues.
Gourde accused the Liberals of “ignoring the problems facing farmers. The speech from the throne did not contain a single word, let alone a paragraph, about agriculture. The Liberals have banned the words agriculture, farmer and agri-food from their vocabulary.”
Freeland noted that MacAulay is a former potato farmer while her parents and grandparents were ranchers in Peace River, Alberta. “We are on the side of Canada’s producers. We are in their corner.”
Freeland heated up the TPP debate during a presentation on the trade deal during one of the seemingly endless string of academic and business discussions about it in Ottawa.
At that point, she said it was not her job to promote the deal, which basically is what the Liberals said during the election campaign.
Ritz accused Freeland of “showing an alarming lack of urgency to support Canadian business by ratifying the milestone TPP.
“An extended period of Liberal navel-gazing over the TPP, or over whether they support free trade at all, will do nothing to help the Canadian economy,” Ritz said.