The long-awaited text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was released on Thursday, revealing the details of a pact aimed at freeing up commerce in 40 per cent of the world's economy but criticized for its opacity.
The partners — which in addition to Canada include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — have made commitments to discourage imports of goods produced by forced labour and to adopt laws on acceptable working conditions, and the first prohibition on harmful fisheries subsidies.
But TPP, which will set common standards on issues ranging from workers' rights to intellectual property protection in 12 Pacific nations, was kept largely from public scrutiny, angering transparency advocates concerned over its broad implications.
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The Liberals, before assuming power, criticized the Conservative government for a lack of transparency regarding what Canada may have given up in the negotiations, although they support the notion of free trade.
Justin Trudeau, in a statement on Oct. 5, promised "a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement."
More recently, Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke over the phone and agreed to promote the deal.
Chrystia Freeland, the new trade minister for the Liberals, will be responsible for ushering the deal through Parliament.
She told the CBC's Metro Morning show in Toronto that the Liberal Government plans to have a full and open debate on the pact in parliament.
Ed Fast, the trade minister under the Conservatives, said he believed the deal could be worth about $3.5 billion of additional economic activity to Canada.
In addition to the overall scope of the deal, Canada has entered into a number of so-called side letters with Japan (forestry, automobiles), Malaysia (automobiles), Australia and New Zealand (wine and spirits), and the United States (dairy and food safety regulations).
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Agreement on the pact, which was more than five years in the making, was trumpeted a month ago after intense talks in Atlanta broke a deadlock over trade in dairy products, pharmaceuticals and autos.
The TPP would be a boon for factory and export economies like Malaysia and Vietnam. Anticipated tariff perks are already luring record foreign investment into Vietnamese manufacturing and both countries are expected to see increased demand for their key exports, from palm oil and rubber to electronics, seafood and textiles.
That could put pressure on several of Asia's major developing economies, including the Philippines and Indonesia, which have recently expressed interest in signing up to the pact. Thailand said it was studying the deal and may consider joining.
Japan has pledged to ease trade barriers on imported French fries and butter - products which have been in short supply in the Asian market - while Malaysia will eliminate tariffs on all imported alcohol for the first time in a trade agreement.
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In the U.S., it was opposed by labour unions and many of Barack Obama's fellow Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who backed the developing trade pact when she was secretary of state during Obama's first term.
Some pro-trade Republican lawmakers are also wary of the deal, heralding a tough fight to get the deal through Congress, although this is not expected before March. Republican White House contender Donald Trump has labelled it a "disaster."
China has responded with its own Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed 16-nation free-trade area including India that would be the world's biggest such bloc, encompassing 3.4 billion people.