Bains Sees TPP Talks With Canada's Auto Industry Lasting Months

The Canadian government is still consulting with carmakers and auto-parts manufacturers as part of its analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a process that will probably take several months, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said.

Bains plans to meet with carmakers and suppliers at the Detroit Auto Show next week, he said Thursday without identifying the companies. Discussions -- which also involve Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland -- began soon after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was sworn in in November, he said.

“When it comes to TPP right now we’re consulting, we’re engaging,” Bains said in an interview in Montreal. “I’ll continue that dialog” next week in Detroit, he said.

Agreement on the 12-nation Pacific trade pact was reached in October while Canada was in the midst of an election campaign. The deal would lower requirements for domestic parts content in auto manufacturing, prompting concern within the industry.

Asked whether analyzing the accord was a multimonth process, Bains answered: “Absolutely. There is something like 6,000 pages. There’s a fair amount to go through, but what’s important is our style. We’re more open and transparent. We’re engaging Canadian companies, and we’re engaging industry in a very open manner.”

Innovation Agenda

Interest from carmakers and suppliers centers around the role government would play in the future, Bains said.

“What they are looking at is where the auto industry is going to go five or 10 years from now,” he said. “You have heard recent announcements around driverless vehicles -- that kind of stuff is really driving the industry. Suppliers want to know what role government would play to really help drive the innovation agenda.”

Bains is also responsible for deciding whether to provide financial assistance to Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., the country’s biggest aerospace company. Analysis of the file is continuing, the minister said, declining to provide a timeline.

“We just want to make sure we do a due diligence, look at the business case,” he said. “We understand the importance of the sector. We understand the contribution it has, particularly in Quebec. That is why we are going to take a holistic approach and look at all of that when we make our decision.”

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