Photographer: Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Canada Wants a Good TPP Deal More Than a Fast One

  • TPP-11 will happen but it is a matter of timing, Canada says
  • TPP ministers to present plan at APEC on how to salvage deal

Canada is sounding a note of caution as nations push this week to save a blockbuster Pacific trade pact, saying speed shouldn’t take priority over getting a good deal.

“We are at the table, we’re being constructive, we’re being creative but let’s be honest, some are difficult discussions,” Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in an interview in Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. “This is not about speed, this is about outcomes."

Francois-Philippe Champagne

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

The Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a pact that would knit together 40 percent of the global economy -- has been in doubt since Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. in one of his first acts as president, citing a perceived risk to U.S. jobs. Since then, the remaining 11 nations, which include Canada, Japan and Australia, have struggled for a way forward. 

Trade ministers have been meeting in Vietnam before presenting their proposal on salvaging the deal to TPP country leaders this week. Some of the TPP discussions this week have been difficult even though they were constructive, Champagne said. A briefing to wrap up the ministerial meeting late on Wednesday was canceled after a delay of several hours, and talks have continued into Thursday.

“I don’t look at trade about this Friday, I look at trade over decades," he said on Wednesday. "For Canada it’s far more important to get the right deal than a fast deal. What we are here to do is set the terms of trade in the Asia-Pacific region for decades to come.”

Read more: Bid to Save Pacific Trade Pact Dumped by Trump Comes to Head

Suspending Provisions

Canada has been advocating a "progressive and inclusive" deal that would ensure chapters on labor and the environment are "right," Champagne said. It also wants to preserve the rights of states to regulate in the best interests of their citizens, he said.

“That is what Canada insists on the table, that we preserve that,” the minister said.

The discussions on TPP have centered on suspending some of the provisions now that the U.S. is no longer in the deal. Malaysia’s Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed has said doing that would avoid a protracted and painful renegotiation.

Champagne said using suspensions could be a way to preserve unity on the deal. “I believe in the suspension of certain provisions,” he said. “IP has been mentioned a couple of times.”

Asked if the risk was that too much would be cut out, he replied: “We have all agreed that it needs to be a high-standard agreement and that remains.”

Strategic Deal

The agreement was seen as a hallmark of U.S. engagement with Asia under the prior administration and a buffer against China’s rising clout. Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter called it more strategically important than having another aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific.

It would go beyond traditional deals by including issues like intellectual property, state-owned enterprises and labor rights. Champagne said Canadians expect any agreement to benefit the middle class and “give a chance to the small and medium-sized business to join the global trade.”

“This needs to be about a win-win situation for all,” he added. “We need to ensure we get to the right outcome. We need to take the time that it takes."

World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo urged the remaining TPP nations to find agreement.

“Trade liberalization is contagious, once you get members negotiating liberalization regionally it is easier for them to do it in other settings as well, including in the WTO,” he said Wednesday in an interview in Vietnam. “They inspire the work of the multilateral system.”

“You never start with something at the multilateral level,” he added. “First you test it, you test it bilaterally, you test it regionally. If those things work, if those rules take root, then they begin to multilateralize these things. I am hopeful TPP-11 will be successful. ”

— With assistance by Haslinda Amin, and Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen

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