Canada invited to join Trans-Pacific Partnership talks
Published Tuesday, June 19, 2012 6:29AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 19, 2012 10:05PM EDT
After months of lobbying for an invitation, Canada has been asked to join the countries negotiating the proposed free trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In a statement Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the invitation.
"Opening new markets and creating new business opportunities leads to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians," Harper said. "A TPP agreement will enhance trade in the Asia-Pacific region and will provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses."
According to the communique from the Prime Minister's Office, "Canada will proceed to enter the talks at the earliest opportunity."
Canada, as well as Japan and Mexico, have been lobbying for months to join the talks.
U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed late Tuesday that Canada and Mexico will join the TPP negotiations.
There are currently nine states participating in the U.S.-led trade talks that would see the creation of a tariff-free economic zone shared, so far, by Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Together, the nine member states represent a potential market of more than 500 million consumers. With the inclusion of Mexico and Canada, that number jumps to 658 million people representing a GDP of $20.5 trillion.
But some critics point out that Canada's participation in a TPP agreement could come with a price. For example, Canada has been under pressure to get rid of marketing boards and tariffs that protect dairy and poultry farmers.
Harper, however, said Canada is not conceding anything yet.
"As in any negotiation, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to by every party," he told reporters in Mexico Tuesday.
Besides the TPP announcement, there are also reports the prime minister will detail the latest progress on developing closer trade ties with China, following up on his February trip to the Asian economic powerhouse.
Progress on both files would bolster Harper's push to broaden Canadian free trade partnerships around the world, and take some of the sting out of a stern rebuke he was given after offering his advice on how the 17-members of the eurozone should rely on their own resources to get their economic house in order.
But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso made clear such unsolicited advice was, in fact, unwelcome.
"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of," Barroso told reporters Monday.
"We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners were so open about their own difficulties. We are extremely open and we are engaging our partners but we are certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody."
Harper played down Barroso's comments Tuesday.
"I think we had pretty good dialogue between European and non-European leaders," he said.
In his closing statements at the summit, Harper said G20 leaders “had frank discussions about the current state of the global economy, ongoing issues in the Eurozone and their potential impacts on the rest of the world.”
In the summit declaration, European leaders said they will “take all necessary policy measures to safeguard the integrity and stability of the euro area.”
All G20 members have agreed to promote global economic growth by adopting the Los Cabos Growth and Jobs Action Plan, led by Canada and India, Harper said.
“It makes the point that fiscal responsibility and economic growth go hand in hand. It also stresses the importance of resisting protectionism, keeping markets open and promoting trade,” he said, adding that he has been pushing Canada’s “ambitious trade agenda” at G20 meetings.