Secret documents show Canada’s aggressive campaign to be included in Trans-Pacific Partnership
New documents reveal Ottawa has for months been pushing the United States to allow Canada into Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks, telling the Americans it’s in their economic interests to do so and trying to assuage their concerns over supply management and intellectual property.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially announced Tuesday at the G20 summit in Mexico that Canada has been accepted into the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which many observers believe could outstrip the North American Free Trade Agreement in economic importance.
Documents labelled “Secret” and prepared for the deputy minister of International Trade — and obtained by Postmedia News under access to information — show Canada has been closely monitoring the growing economic and political relationship between the U.S. and Japan, a key Asian market the Harper government wants to increasingly tap.
The internal briefing notes also reveal Canada “is an ambitious partner” willing to discuss “any issue at the negotiating table,” and that the Harper government is ready to use its majority to make what would undoubtedly be a controversial decision to negotiate and possibly sign onto the TPP.
The TPP trade bloc includes the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, although Japan and Mexico — along with Canada — have also now entered negotiations.
The secret documents prepared for Louis Levesque, the deputy minister of International Trade, for an apparent February meeting with high-level U.S. officials, shed light on just how hard the Harper government has been pursuing the TPP negotiations and the importance of Japan to the whole equation.
“Canada is seeking entry into the TTP negotiations as soon as possible,” say the documents. “Canada is an ambitious partner that can keep pace with these negotiations. We have a majority government that is ready, willing and able to make decisions.”
As part of his sales pitch to the United States, the deputy to International Trade Minister Ed Fast was expected to convey other “key messages” to U.S. officials, including the potential economic fallout should the U.S. not allow Canada into the talks.
“Excluding Canada would disrupt critical North American supply chains and make your companies less competitive in Asian markets,” read the secret documents. “We are each other’s top trade partners, and we are allies and close partners on major global issues; we should build the Trans-Pacific Partnership together.”
Levesque was also encouraged to remind the Americans an estimated eight million U.S. jobs depend on trade with its northern neighbour, and Canada was willing to throw everything on the table to enter the negotiations — including thorny issues of supply management and intellectual property.
A handful of countries in the TPP negotiations — including New Zealand and the United States — had initially been resisting Canada’s entry into the group because of the Canadian supply management system that protects fewer than 20,000 dairy and poultry farmers behind a tariff wall and hands them production quotas.
“Canada is committed to contributing to a TPP agreement that sets as high a standard as possible, and will be open to discussing any issue at the negotiating table,” say the documents, under a section titled “RESPONSIVE ONLY — Supply Management.”
“All countries approach negotiations with a view to achieving an outcome that meets their interests across all areas, Canada is no different.”
The U.S. has also been pushing Canada to crack down on Internet piracy and adopt stronger intellectual property laws. The House of Commons has just passed Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, in an effort to ease some of those concerns and bring Canadian copyright laws up to international standards.
In the February meeting, the deputy minister, if pressed, was urged to trumpet the government’s proposed reforms on intellectual property.
“On intellectual property, our government continues to pursue major policy changes in a highly polarized environment,” say the documents.
“We are committed to combatting the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods including strengthening measures for the enforcement of intellectual property rights which we have demonstrated by signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.”
The Conservative government has made no secret of how important Japan is to Canada’s entry into the trade bloc, with at least one senior minister noting that the TPP without Japan “does not excite us.” Canada and Japan agreed earlier this year to launch their own bilateral free-trade talks.
The new documents show the Canadian government has been closely monitoring the potential impact of growing political and economic relations between Japan and the United States.
“Japan has been engaged in several ‘confidence-building measures’ with the U.S. over the past year and these have been both publicly praised by (the U.S. Trade Representative), and linked by the press to Japan’s TPP ambitions,” say the documents.
“Over the past year, Japan has been engaged in several bilateral initiatives to facilitate more open trade with the United States.”
The above article originally appeared on The National Post.