Trudeau Should Pursue Pact with Japan Before China, Ambrose Says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should pursue a free trade pact with Japan over any similar deal with China if the U.S. election derails the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Canada’s opposition leader says.

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose, whose party governed from 2006 to 2015 and is now the official opposition, called on Trudeau to take a position on TPP, a trade pact he has remained neutral on after seven months in power.

"Trudeau could take a leadership role even if this is still being hotly debated by people like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders," Ambrose said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV Canada’s Pamela Ritchie. "There’s nothing wrong with Trudeau coming out and saying, ‘I’m an advocate for TPP.’"

Trudeau’s government formally signed the 12-nation TPP pact earlier this year and has two years to ratify it. It is also said to be eyeing free trade talks with China, possibly reaching a deal by 2019. If the TPP collapses, Ambrose said Trudeau should focus on Japan -- a key TPP pillar -- rather than China. The Conservatives agreed to join the TPP during last year’s election campaign before losing power to the Liberals.

"I worry about talking about a free trade agreement with China because there’s not a lot of ’free’ in China," Ambrose said. The Conservatives, then led by Stephen Harper, signed a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China but a trade deal is far more complex, including labor and environmental issues, Ambrose said.

"I don’t know how Mr. Trudeau expects to traverse their challenges, but I do believe we should focus on countries where we have a lot of commonality. Japan makes sense to me," she said. "I’m not sure we should put all our eggs in a free trade agreement with China."

In a visit to Japan last week, Trudeau described himself as "extremely pro-trade" and said Canada and Japan have focused on TPP talks but left the door open to bilateral trade negotiations.

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