Manitoba Tories ask for unanimous support on Trans-Pacific trade deal

Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government is backing a huge free trade deal among a dozen countries.

Deal could mean a hike of $250M a year in Manitoba exports, trade minister says

A dairy farmer walks with his cow during during a protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada September 29, 2015. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Manitoba's Progressive Conservative government is backing a huge free trade deal among a dozen countries.

Manitoba's inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP could mean an increase of about $250 million a year in sales for the province's exporters, said Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen in a news release, while exclusion would cut off access to important trade markets, putting Manitoba jobs at risk.

Besides Canada, the deal includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.

Manitoba's pork producers could be big winners in the deal.

One quarter of Canada's pork exports come from Manitoba and under the deal, tariffs on the meat would be completely eliminated over ten years. Manitoba exports approximately $700 million of pork to seven TPP countries.

If there is a downside to the deal for Manitoba, it's in the dairy industry.

The TPP would see the amount of milk allowed into Canada increase and that may take some market share from some of the province's approximately 300 dairy producers.

Cullen acknowledged those concerns. 

"Obviously there's going to be some give and take in the agreement but I think the federal government recognizes that there could be some that won't benefit as much. So there [are] some provisions in the agreement to keep an eye on those sectors of the economy," he said after Question Period Tuesday.

The PC government wants unanimous support for the TPP from all parties in the Legislature.

"It sends a more concrete message to the federal government that ... all parties support the initiative and support the agreement and if we can have that initiative brought forward on a unanimous basis it would deliver a stronger message for the Canadian government," Cullen said. 

Environmentalists concerned

Alex Paterson of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition said signing the TPP would give companies in other countries the legal right to extract products such as oil, even if Canada wanted to limit production of fossil fuels. 

"Any kind of country that has an investment in the Alberta oil sands is going to be able to sue us in Canada if we try to close their fossil fuel investments. And that's what green investors are telling us we have to do," he said. "So it means if we sign this agreement Canada is opening itself up to lawsuits."

Manitoba exported an average of $9.3 billion annually to TPP countries between 2012 and 2014.

A two-year ratification period was started after the agreement was signed last February, during which the United States, Japan and at least four of the remaining 10 countries must approve the final legal text in order for the deal to take effect.

Debate on Manitoba's stance on the trade deal stretched into Tuesday afternoon without a vote.