Trans-Pacific Partnership consultations held in Halifax
Federal Liberals have promised broad consultations on 12-nation free trade deal
The Trudeau government has yet to take a stand on the Trans-Pacific Partnership but it was all ears during consultation sessions in Halifax on Wednesday.
"Some stakeholders are for it, some are against it. We are here to listen to everyone," said David Lametti, parliamentary secretary for international trade.
"We haven't taken a position," he said.
Today, three consultation sessions were held on the Asian free trade deal with business, academic and government officials.
The Liberal government has promised broad consultations on the 12-nation trade deal initialed in October 2015 by the Harper government.
The first deadline to sign the deal — a key step towards eventual ratification — is expected next month.
"We are highly supportive of TPP," said Christine Penney, an executive with Clearwater Seafoods who met with Lametti in a session sponsored by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.
The Port of Halifax and St. Mary's University also hosted meetings on the trade deal.
"We think it will significantly reduce tariff barriers and represents an opportunity for growth in the seafood industry," Penney said.
Lametti also met with Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia's minister of agriculture and fisheries, but the province would not provide details of their meeting.
Phil MacKenzie with Solar Global Solutions, a subsidiary of Halifax-based LED Roadway Lighting, attended one of the sessions.
His company makes solar-powered lights, sold in places where electricity is expensive, like the Caribbean.
Unlike Ontario's auto manufacturing sector, he says green tech companies stand to benefit from lowered tariffs.
"I'm excited to see what types of tariffs would be lifted by having the TPP with regards to importing the components we need for our solar systems," MacKenzie said.
Halifax port well connected
Karen Oldfield, CEO of the Port of Halifax, says the federal agency already has excellent connections with Asian countries that are part of the TPP, citing Vietnam as an example.
She sees TPP as a compliment to the already signed European free trade deal, calling it an edge over the United States which has no such deal with the Europeans.
"If we can be ahead in our trade agreement with the European Union and tie into the TPP, we are uniquely positioned amongst all those countries and particularly, vis-a-vis, the United States," she said.
"I would say we would have a significant advantage for a period of time."