'Many irons in the fire' for trade deals in Asia, Ed Fast tells CTV QP
Published Sunday, January 26, 2014 10:15AM EST
Even before a draft of last year's European Union trade deal is released, International Trade Minister Ed Fast says he hopes to finalize negotiations that will open new markets in Asia.
In an interview with CTV's Question Period that aired Sunday, Fast said his focus is on "driving our trade and investment agenda" by leveraging Canada's position as "one of the strongest economies in the developed world."
After securing the long-awaited EU deal and then signing an agreement to expand trade relations with Israel just last week, Fast says his focus is on concluding other long-awaited deals and open new markets.
"We have many other irons in the fire," Fast said from Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum. "We're also negotiating with Japan, we're negotiating with the Trans Pacific Partnership and also with India,"
"So we've got an ambitious agenda."
Canada is also seeking a trade deal with South Korea, which has raised concerns within Ontario's auto industry. Automakers and unions are concerned that a deal would flood the Canadian market with cheap cars and cripple this country's auto industry.
Fast said "we're getting close" to a South Korea deal, but "we're not there yet." He said no deal will be signed without extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the auto industry.
"We have consulted extensively with all sectors of our economy, including the auto sector. In fact, those discussions are ongoing," Fast said.
"We're confident that at the end of the day, we're going to have an outcome that serves Canadians very well. It will be an outcome that is balanced and it will also reflect the fact that Canada needs to continue to open up new markets within the Asia-Pacific region."
Canada is at "a significant disadvantage," he said, because both the EU and the United States have trade deals with South Korea.
"They are our toughest competitors and we want to make sure we provide our industries with a level playing field," he said.
Meanwhile, asked when Canadians might see the details of the EU deal, Fast said it would take three to four months to finalize "technical details" before a draft agreement will be crafted. That agreement will then have to be translated into 24 languages.
"Once we have a draft agreement we will release that to Canadians so they can have a close look at it. It will reflect the agreement we arrived at in Brussels," he said.