TPP deal 'in best interests' of Canadian economy, Stephen Harper says
Historic 12-nation tariff-cutting pact is in Canada's best interest 'without any doubt'
Canada has become a founding member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country trading block that will enjoy a significant drop in tariffs nearly across the board while fundamentally changing the nature of the North American auto industry and nudging Canada's supply-managed agricultural sectors towards greater international trade.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says the historic deal protects Canadian jobs today and creates more for generations to come as it secures access to hundreds of millions of new customers in the Asia-Pacific region.
But it won't please everyone.
"This deal is, without any doubt whatsoever, in the best interests of the Canadian economy," Harper told a news conference Monday after the deal was announced.
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"Ten years from now, I predict with 100 per cent certainty people are looking back, they will say if we've got in it, they'll say that was a great thing. And if we haven't, they'll say that was a terrible error."
Canadian officials briefing media and industry stakeholders in Ottawa Monday morning outlined a wide range of new export opportunities for Canadian industries that the deal offers.
Other tariffs on a large range of commodities like canola, fish and seafood, forestry products and industrial goods will be eliminated or lowered across the TPP region, either immediately or over a phase-in period ranging from five to 15 years.
Canada will also have new access to government procurement projects abroad, including opportunities to bid on projects for six regional power authorities in the U.S.
But the compromise required to reach the deal means that aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement pertaining to the auto sector will change. That deal required roughly 60 per cent of parts and vehicles sold tariff-free to be manufactured in North America.
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In order to qualify as a tariff-free vehicle under the TPP, 45 per cent of the net cost of the vehicle will need to originate in TPP countries — not just North America. For auto parts, 45 per cent of core parts and priority parts identified by the Canadian industry, and 40 per cent of the net cost of other parts, will need to originate in TPP countries.
Canada has also granted new access for TPP member countries to its supply-managed agricultural sector. Imports representing roughly 3.25 per cent of Canada's current annual dairy production will be allowed, as well as 2.3 per cent for eggs, 2.1 per cent for chicken, 2 per cent for turkey and 1.5 per cent for hatching eggs.
Offsetting this is a phased-in tariff reduction for artisanal cheese producers who wish to export to the United States.
Fluid milk will be included in the dairy allotment, but 85 per cent of the milk will be directed to Canadian processors. All TPP countries will have equal access to the new dairy allotment, although exporters like New Zealand and Australia are more likely to ship butter or cheese across the longer distances than fluid milk.
All dairy imports will be subject to Canadian regulations, including phytosanitary rules like permissible livestock drugs.
"We certainly don't anticipate that there will be job losses," said International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who represented Canada at the talks.
"Obviously there will be some industries that will adapt but what we've done is we've positioned Canada very strongly to be part of a much larger trade agreement, the largest in the world, providing Canada with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Fast added the deal will allow Canada to "shape outcomes and rules within the Asia-Pacific region, to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with our NAFTA partners, to expand our opportunity within the Asia-Pacific."
'Secret deal' fails Canada, Mulcair says
Speaking at a campaign stop in Waterloo, Ont., Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reiterated that the Grits are a "pro-trade party," but said he wants to take a careful look at all the elements of the trade deal to determine its impact on Canadians and the overall economy.
He called for a "full and open" process to scrutinize the agreement before it is ratified by a vote in Parliament following the Oct. 19 election.
"I look forward to seeing the details of the deal, but we go into it from the position of being resolutely and consistently, I might add, pro-trade."
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, however, said the Tories "double-crossed the supply managed sectors of Canada's agricultural sector, as well as the auto sector" in a statement.
"The Green Party has serious concerns with the fundamentally undemocratic and non-transparent nature of the negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership," said May.
May's concerns about an alleged lack of transparency around the deal were echoed by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair during a campaign event in Toronto.
He demanded that the Conservatives release a full text of the agreement before Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 19. He repeated his previous position that an NDP government would not be bound by what amounts to a "secret deal" that sacrifices farming families and betrays the auto sector, signed by the Tories just weeks head of election day.
"If elected, Canada will not be party of an agreement that removes 200,000 Canadians jobs — period," he told the crowd of supporters.
Mulcair also repeated his claim that Harper has the worst record on job creation since the Second World War and that Canadians should not have to suffer the consequences of Harper's inability to negotiate a good deal that promotes the interests of all Canadians.
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Protecting pillars of supply management
Prior to the TPP, Canada's supply managed agricultural sectors did not receive taxpayer-funded income support programs from the federal government.
With the implementation of TPP, two programs will be available to farmers concerned about potential losses: a 15-year, $2.4 billion income guarantee program and a 10-year, $1.5 billion quota value guarantee program. A $450 million program to support improvements to Canadian dairy, poultry and egg processing facilities is also available.
"As you know on supply management, we have been successful in protecting the three key pillars of supply management, being production controls, price controls and import controls. We believe the outcome is very much one that reflects Canada's long-term interests and will provide the supply-managed sector with a bright future," said Fast.
"They can now continue to invest in their industry. Grow their industry and that's an outcome that we are very pleased with," he said to reporters after the deal was announced.
Cabinet has also approved a $15 million market development fund to help the supply-managed agriculture sector promote Canadian products, bringing the total price tag to $4.3 billion for the suite of transition assistance on offer.
Unlike the compensation program first offered when the Canada-European Union trade agreement was announced, these programs will not be contingent on proven losses in the sector. Losses under the EU deal could also be covered by the programs announced Monday.
The 12 countries in the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam.
A "comprehensive" text of the agreement in principle will be released "in the coming days," officials said Monday. Each country will need to ratify the final text of the deal before it takes effect. In Canada, that will take the form of a vote in Parliament, following the election.