OTTAWA: Canada is making progress in its bid to join the new trans-Pacific trade bloc, federal Trade Minister Ed Fast said Thursday. The major hurdle is convincing the US to let Canada participate.
Washington is believed to be one of the key impediments to Ottawa’s efforts to join the nine-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, largely because Canada wants to protect dairy, egg and poultry farmers in Quebec and Ontario from outside competition.
But the minister, who was attending the inaugural trade ministers meeting of the G20 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on Thursday, said he has been working on his US counterpart to sort out their differences.
”In my meetings with Ambassador Ron Kirk, each meeting has been productive,” he said in a telephone interview.
”We believe we are making significant progress in impressing upon the United States that Canada will be an ambitious negotiating partner, that we will be a very valuable asset at the negotiating table,” he said.
Fast said Canada’s protectionist supply management system shouldn’t be an impediment because Canada has agreed to put it on the table in talks, as it has done in other negotiations.
That does not mean Canada would necessarily negotiate the system out of existence, however.
”Since the late 1980s, we’ve negotiated agreements with 14 countries, (and) in each case we have been successful in addressing the issue of supply management and that has not prevented us from actually completing free trade negotiations,” he pointed out.
Canada may be willing to remove some of the barriers to imports in dairy, eggs and poultry if the price is right, Fast said.
He’ll also be talking to New Zealand’s trade minister, another critic of supply management, at the G20 meetings ending Friday.
No major announcements are expected from the talks, the first time trade ministers from the Group of 20 countries have formally met. But Fast said he hopes the summit will result in a consensus that protectionism is ”toxic” in the modern global economy.
Fast said Canada has walked the walk on trade by actually lowering and removing tariffs worth about $435 million annually even as the country was struggling through recession and the aftermath.