The House

Ed Fast: TPP text will be released before the election

International Trade Minister Ed Fast says the Conservative government will release the text of the TPP deal before the election. He also says Unifor president, Jerry Dias, is scaremongering when he suggests thousands of automotive jobs will be lost because of the deal.

International Trade Minister doesn't expect any job losses in auto sector

Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)

International Trade Minister Ed Fast says the Conservative government will release the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement before the election, so Canadians can have all the information they'll need to cast their ballot on Oct. 19.

"As soon as we possibly can, certainly before the election, we're going to release a provisional text," Fast said in an interview with Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.

"I can't give you an exact date, because we want to make sure we get this right, that when Canadians get this information, they see the text, they can be confident that's the agreement that Canada has signed on to," Fast said.

He also said that despite some negative publicity around the deal — the spectre of losing thousands of auto industry jobs, the allowance of more foreign dairy products and Hillary Clinton's rejection of the TPP — the trade agreement will be a boon for Canadians. 

"The only negatives I'm hearing are coming from Jerry Dias, who is one of the big union bosses at Unifor, and when he started he was talking about [losing] 30,000 jobs, then the following week it's 26,000 ... this week he's saying 20,000 jobs. He's not able to defend the actual figures that he's mentioning." 

Auto sector faces big changes

Dias has said that job losses are imminent because of changes to auto import rules.

Under the TPP, a 6.1-per-cent levy on auto imports would be phased out over five years, if it is ratified.

Cars would be allowed into Canada without tariffs as long as they have 45 per cent content from the TPP, lower than the 62.5 per cent threshold under the North America Free Trade Agreement. 

Unifor has said that companies will have an incentive to source their parts from China, Thailand or Malaysia, at a much cheaper price, rather than those produced from the Canadian supply chain.

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Fast said he doesn't expect the automotive sector to lose any jobs at all because of TPP — rather they'll actually add some because Canada's automotive sector will now be able to export vehicles and parts to Asia. And the potential losses of not signing on to the agreement would be much worse.

"If Canada was not part of the TPP, if we're on the outside looking in, our opportunities, our tariff preferences, are preferential treatment in the U.S., Mexico — our NAFTA partners — would erode very quickly." 

"Our ability to maintain current export levels would very quickly deteriorate and of course our future opportunity for exports would be gone," Fast said. 

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced new support for Canada's struggling auto sector this week.

If re-elected, a Tory government would provide $1 billion in new funding over the next 10 years to for the Automotive Innovation Fund, which was originally created in the 2008 federal budget with $250 million over five years to help firms conduct large-scale research and development initiatives by providing automotive plants with repayable loans.

TPP will benefit consumers, Fast says

Once signed, the TPP will lift tariffs off thousands of goods including products from Japan, a popular manufacturing hub for consumer electronics.

The deal will be a shot in the arm for innovation and Canada's information technology sector, in particular, Fast said.

Jim Balsille, the former co-CEO of Research in Motion, told Hall this week that Canada has a "colonial economic policy for innovation," and lags behind other Western nations with respect to research and development.

BlackBerry co-founder Jim Balsillie says innovation in Canada is in desperate need of a shot in the arm. Fast says TPP will help by imposing stringent new copyright, patent protections on Asian countries. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Fast, when presented with these comments, said patent protections — and new copyright stipulations — that have been included in the deal will bring the number of Asian countries up to the standards already in place in North America.

"There are countries [in Asia] that did not have these protections," Fast said. "That's what sets the TPP apart. Because it sets the rules trade for the 21st century in Asia-Pacific and it's a very high bar." 

Expect many new members

12 countries signed on to the deal this week but many more countries will be added in the months and years to come, Fast predicted. "This [deal] is expected to expand quite quickly.

We've had interest expressed by countries like South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Latin America," Fast said. 

But with top Democratic party contenders in the U.S. — Clinton, but also Bernie Saunders — and even some Republican candidates like Donald Trump could make the ratification process very complicated.