Canada has taken an historic leap toward securing its longterm interests in the AsiaPacific region by joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, according to John Manley, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. It’s not an opinion that will find favour among many of his former Liberal Party colleagues, who appear more interested in domestic partisan, rather than long-term strategic, advantage.For the sake of most Canadians you would hope the answer to that question is no.
“Can the Conservative government give Canadians assurances that our supply management system will be preserved under this new agreement? asked Wayne Easter, the party’s trade critic.
Mr. Harper said his government has a strong record of defending Canadian interests at trade talks but it will be interesting to see if his government, in particular Gerry Ritz, the agriculture minister, will be quite so emphatic in their defence of supply management in the days to come. Mr. Ritz has claimed that consumers wouldn’t benefit from an end to the protected system that critics claim raises prices — and could even lead to safety issues from imported milk.How can consumers not benefit from the end of such a scheme? How can a more competitive market and lower prices be bad for consumers? One wonders what these unspecified "safety issues" would be. Are such comments just an indicator of the power of the farming sector in Canada? At least New Zealand farmers have gotten over this protection at all costs type mentality. This could be something that New Zealand farmers could teach their Canadian counterparts. I very much doubt that anyone in the farming sector here wants to go back to the days of over-regulation and protection.
But Mr. Davies has promised an “intelligent, balanced and well-structured” fresh perspective on trade. He is right to ask for more information on what concessions have been made to get to the table. When it comes to finding out what is happening on any given trade deal, it pays to talk to everyone but the Canadian delegation, who are tighter than two coats of paint when it comes to divulging information.More information is indeed a good thing, especially given the position the U.S. takes on IP. But the benefits of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, of which New Zealand is already a member, are great for Canada and more access to Canadian markets has to be good for New Zealand as well.