Stinking up the TPP
Cusco is one of the regions in Peru dominated by subsistence f arming, which i s when farmers grow only enough food to feed their own families. The gods may be smiling down on the farmers of Cusco. If Justin Trudeau has his way, the poor farmers might soon welcome the arrival of government officials to bring to their little plots of potato and quinoa all sorts of new standards for progressive values.
Canada’s Liberal government is yearning to put its virtue- signalling stamp on the Trans-Pacific Partnership ( TPP), which was negotiated by the previous government. The TPP is a free-trade agreement among countries along the Pacific Rim from f our continents. Eleven members remain following the U. S. decision to withdraw earlier this year. The remaining countries have worked together to salvage the agreement since the U. S. left, and got together at the APEC summit in Vietnam. But Canada made itself the skunk of the party by scuttling a tentative agreement among TPP members. And in a part of the world where preserving face is important, Canada chose the most humiliating route by failing to show at a meeting where the tentative agreement was to be signed.
The reasons behind Canada’s insistence on more negotiations are a bit muddled, but there appears to be both some specific issues and some broader themes. The specific issues include the auto industry and culture. Canada is reportedly seeking new country- of- origin rules for the auto industry, which shows that Canadian trade officials have learned something about protectionist practices from their U. S. counterparts in the NAFTA negotiations. Canada’s need for a chapter on culture is possibly mystifying to the other countries in the TPP. They may not understand how Canada must maintain a vast army of bureaucrats in Ottawa dedicated to cultural subsidies, regulations and trade barriers. Otherwise, Canadian musicians, filmmakers and other artists will automatically turn into zombies incapable of showing any artistic merit.
The broader themes behind Canada’s stance are familiar. Canada insists on pursuing the pet themes of the Trudeau government by either enhancing chapters or introducing new chapters into the TPP on progressive values such as gender rights and environmental and labour standards. This will likely prove a fool’s errand.
Members of the TPP are highly diverse. They are at different stages of economic development, and vary significantly in political structures, cultures and histories. This will make negotiating common standards on the Liberals’ progressive values complicated. For instance, it is difficult to imagine consensus on gender rights between Canada and a country like Brunei, where the sultan that governs the nation has adopted the longstanding culturally and religiously accepted practice of having multiple wives. And should new labour standards be a priority for Peru to pursue with subsistence farmers, like those in Cusco, when existing rights in the TPP agreement are simply not practical?
The reality is that the best Canada can hope for in its pursuit of progressive values is lip service from the other countries. But even that may be unattainable. The TPP includes countries with a reputation for guarding their independence that do not appreciate being told what they should do by outsiders.
Canada needs to pursue new deals, given the recent unpredictability of our largest trading partner the U.S., as exhibited by the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. The real damage of Canada’s antics in Vietnam may extend beyond the TPP. Other jurisdictions seeking to pursue new trade agreements may prefer less difficult partners and put Canada at the bottom of their lists.
CANADA MADE ITSELF THE SKUNK AT THE PARTY BY SCUTTLING A TENTATIVE AGREEMENT.
Poor farmers with potatoes in Paru Paru, Cusco, Peru.