Canada, the largest U.S. trading partner, will be invited to join nine nations negotiating a Pacific-region trade agreement, after Mexico received a similar offer, three people familiar with the matter said.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper may make an announcement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership as early as today in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos, where he is attending a Group of 20 summit, according to the people aware of the plan who asked not be identified before a decision is made public.
With Canada and Mexico, the agreement would create the U.S.’s largest trade accord, linking North American Free Trade Agreement partners with eight Pacific-region nations. For now, the parties have taken no action on Japan’s request to join. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC have led opposition to Japan’s participation, saying the nation’s auto market needs to be more open to international competition.
Harper and President Barack Obama are scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. in Los Cabos (1:30 p.m. in Washington), said Julie Vaux, Harper’s spokeswoman. Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
New entrants to the talks “must not lower the ambition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership or delay its conclusion,” Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee trade panel, said at a conference today in Washington. By setting high standards, the agreement may give its participants leverage when dealing with countries including India and China and encourage them to abide by similar rules, he said.
Brady called on Congress to grant the White House so-called fast-track authority to negotiate agreements subject to an up-or-down vote by lawmakers. If the Pacific accord “is to be completed quickly, we have to be prepared to consider it in Congress when that time comes,” he said.
Adding Mexico and Canada to the multilateral agreement would benefit manufacturing supply networks already in place in North America, Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington, said yesterday in an interview after Mexico’s invitation was announced. The New York-based organization promotes open markets in the Western hemisphere.
Trade in merchandise among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. reached $1 trillion in 2011 for the first time, Obama said at an April 2 press conference. Total U.S. trade in goods with Canada reached $596.2 billion, resulting in a $34.5 billion U.S. trade deficit with its northern neighbor, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Goods trade with Mexico, the second largest market for U.S. exporters, was $461.2 billion.
The nations negotiating the Pacific accord with the U.S. are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The agreement is expected to encompass traditional issues including agriculture and intellectual property, as well investment and protections for businesses that compete against state-owned enterprises, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
The Obama administration must notify Congress of its intent to include any additional countries in the talks, followed by a 90-day consultation period with Congress.
The next round of Pacific-accord negotiations is scheduled for July 2-10 in San Diego.