TORONTO—Debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership reached its height earlier this year when negotiators met in Hawaii to try to hammer out a deal. When trade ministers walked away without an agreement at the beginning of August, opponents seemed content the build-up to the high-stakes deal would end with a whimper.
Trade negotiators from the 12 potential TPP countries, however, are now making what seems like one last attempt to push through the deal that would affect 40 per cent of the world’s GDP. The renewed effort has rekindled the battle over the TPP’s fallout here in Canada, with the auto sector taking centre stage.
“Ed Fast needs to tell Canadians the truth about the threat posed by the secret deal he is negotiating,” Unifor National president, Jerry Dias, said. “Instead, he goes on national television to promise everything will be great, even as Stephen Harper admits the TPP will be bad for the auto industry.”
Unifor held rallies outside the offices of Conservative election candidates this week, calling on the Canadian government to “stand firm” on auto sector regional content rules set out under NAFTA. Canada’s largest private sector union said the TPP puts 26,000 auto sector jobs at risk. Dias went so far as to challenge Canada’s trade minister Ed Fast to a public debate on the topic.
Meanwhile, steel industry associations from across North America have called for governments to maintain the regional content rules for autos as well, saying changing the regulation would “adversely impact the steel industry.”
On the other side of the debate, TPP proponents say the deal will lower the cost of goods, and perhaps more importantly, ensure Canada is not left out of such a significant trade agreement.
“It’s clear that a TPP may be concluded — with or without Canada,” the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance said. “If Canada is not committed to concluding an agreement, we will be either forced to accept what others negotiate or worse remain on the outside. This would be devastating.”
CAFTA, an organization representing about 80 per cent of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food exports called on political leaders to support the TPP, saying it would allow the country’s export-dependent economy to support jobs and communities.