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Rising global waves of protectionism are a concern to Canada and underscore the need not to rush ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said in an interview in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Freeland’s remarks came after she joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in meetings with Japanese auto executives. Trudeau will join other global leaders at a Group of Seven summit in central Japan later this week.
“We are a trading nation. We really understand the importance of Canada being plugged into the global economy, and we are concerned by the rising waves of protectionism we see around the world,” Freeland said, declining to specify which countries are of most concern.
Canada and Japan are each TPP signatories yet neither has ratified the trade agreement. Freeland said the TPP had not come up in talks so far that day, and that Canada is concerned by a rise in anti-trade sentiment globally.
Speaking to reporters later Tuesday, Trudeau said that Canada is "very much" a pro-trade nation. "I am personally extremely pro-trade and we are consulting widely on that specific deal, the TPP," he said.
The TPP, agreed to in 2015 and signed earlier this year, is facing challenges and ratification delays. Freeland declined to discuss a “hypothetical” situation of a U.S. ratification delay, and said her country had no target date for ratifying the pact.
“That is going to be up to the trade committee” of Canada’s House of Commons, Freeland said when asked if Canada could take a year or two to ratify the agreement. She said she didn’t have a preference for how quickly to proceed, citing protectionist sentiment as a reason to move cautiously.
“Our government believes that the way you push back against that, and the way you maintain what I think we have in Canada -- which is a real consensus still for an open economy and an open society -- is to make sure people are heard,” she said. “So we really feel our process is essential.”
Signatory nations have a full two years from the February signing to ratify the pact, she said. It’s clear “countries are taking that time,” she said.
Trudeau is due to meet Tuesday evening with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The trade deal is a core tenet of Abenomics, though the pact is also facing ratification delays in Japan. Trudeau has said he will discuss trade with Abe.
Trudeau and Freeland met earlier Tuesday with executives from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. Ltd and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. Trudeau thanked Toyota and Honda, each of which operates Canadian assembly plants, for their investments.
Trudeau didn’t specifically ask the carmakers to expand operations in Canada, instead laying the groundwork of improved relationships and preaching the virtue of expanded Canada trade and investment, Freeland said.
"I am very much in relationship-building mode," Trudeau said, adding he is confident jobs will flow from those relationships.