With NAFTA in a deadlock, Parliament returns ready to talk Asia-Pacific trade
1st thing Liberals and Conservatives want to pass is the TPP trade deal
With NAFTA negotiations in a standoff and the Canada-U.S. relationship seemingly on the rocks, the Liberal government is using the return of Parliament to talk about a different kind of trade deal.
One of the first things members of Parliament debated when they returned to their seats today was Bill C-79, the legislation to implement the free trade pact between Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The deal was signed in March and legislation to ratify it was introduced in the House of Commons in June.
The government claims that once the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) enters into force for Canada, it's expected to boost the country's GDP by $4.2 billion.
Shortly after the government introduced the bill, Conservative MP Ed Fast sought unanimous consent to pass it through all legislative stages in the House of Commons, but was blocked by the NDP.
International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr picked things up on Monday, calling the deal a "call to action." He took over the portfolio during this summer's cabinet shuffle, which also saw the word "diversification" added to his title.
And the Tory benches are promising something not always on display in the House of Commons — support.
"In relation to NAFTA, it's really important that we have other trade agreements. So we're hoping that comes forward quickly and we would like to see that passed very quickly."
NDP won't give unanimous consent
The NDP is promising to put up a fight.
"Our big battle is going to be on the TPP front. We definitely think there are a lot of issues. There are a lot of concerns about it," said Matthew Dubé, the party's caucus chair.
"We know that this has an impact on workers. It has an impact on cultural content and things like that in a way that is quite serious. So while we recognize that we want to diversify trade with everything that is going on with NAFTA, to think that we would pass legislation like that without debate, with unanimous consent, is not acceptable."
The original 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership deal negotiated by the previous Conservative government was thrown into limbo early last year when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement to prioritize protecting American jobs.
However, the remaining 11 member countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – led by Japan, continued with a revised trade pact.
"Trade means growth and growth means jobs," he said.
NAFTA, pipeline to dominate question period
While CPTPP is first up on the order paper, the Opposition still plans to raise the government's record on renegotiating NAFTA.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will be in the House of Commons on Monday, but is expected to return to Washington this week for another round of high level talks with her American counterparts.
The U.S. and Mexico already have reached an agreement in principle and are threatening to move on without Canada if Ottawa isn't ready to sign by Oct. 1.
With the countdown to the 2019 federal election ticking, the Opposition is also vowing to use the return of Parliament to go after the Liberals on pipelines in the wake of this summer's federal court decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, as well as their carbon price plan and their record on ethics.
Last week the conflict of interest commissioner found Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc violated conflict rules by awarding a lucrative fishing contract to a company set to be run by one of his wife's first cousins.
With files from the CBC's Elizabeth Thompson and the Canadian Press