Trans-Pacific Partnership is B.C.’s holy grail
Province must fight hard to seal this trade deal, Maureen Kirkbride writes
This deal promises a major economic windfall for our country. … the Trans-Pacific Partnership is to the 21st century what NAFTA was to the 20th century. Maureen Kirkbride
For B.C., it’s our perfect ideal of trade deals.
That’s the part we can’t forget, as the federal government’s cross-Canada consultations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership elicit pushback from a few vested interests.
In trade deals, some pushback is to be expected. In every trade negotiation, there is give and take to ensure that all countries make gains under the deal.
But here’s the thing: From B.C.’s vantage point, the TPP is as close to a slam dunk as can be achieved on a trade deal. Virtually every B.C. industry stands to gain from this deal. Whether it’s forestry in the Central Interior, mining in the Kootenays, oil and gas in the Peace region, agriculture and agri-food in the Okanagan and Fraser Valley, or seafood and shellfish on the Island, B.C. businesses stand to benefit by having their products gain access to TPP markets, in many cases duty-free.
And then there is the service sector. B.C. has world-class engineering services, mining services, forestry services and financial services. These are globally competitive services. This deal supports our companies in selling their services in the Asia-Pacific region.
It’s no small miracle that British Columbians stand to secure all these benefits at virtually no cost to our industries. This is a rare trade deal where, at the negotiating table, B.C. has sacrificed so little in exchange for widespread gains.
True, on the national scale, there have been compromises. As a country, we’ve ceded some ground on autos and dairy supply management. As a result, it’s no surprise that the deal’s strongest detractors come from Ontario and Quebec.
But even there, we have to keep our eyes on the larger, national picture. The federal government pegs our national anticipated gains under this deal at $9.9 billion in annual income gains, and annual export increases of $15.7 billion. A recent C.D. Howe Institute report contested those figures, but still tallied up gains of $3 billion in annual income gains and $4.7 billion in two-way trade.
Either way, this deal promises a major economic windfall for our country.
And while no modern deal will probably ever deliver the remarkable gains Canada has made under the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and its successor NAFTA, it doesn’t change the fact that the TPP is to the 21st century what NAFTA was to the 20th century.
As we advance steadily into the 21st century, and as global markets shift inexorably toward Asia, we have a clear choice: To build bridges with Asia and give our businesses access to major growth markets, while protecting our preferential access to the U.S. and Mexican markets, or to opt out, sidelining our companies on the global stage.
And if, as a country, we choose the latter, we have to realize that we’re not just consigning our businesses to the status quo. Regrettably, it’s much worse than that. Because if we opt to stay still as our competitors, such as the U.S. and Australia, move ahead, we’re damning Canadian companies to continued near-insignificance in the most fruitful trading region in the world.
The losses we’ll face if we opt out of this deal are exacerbated by the fact that our major competitors in the Asia-Pacific region, notably Australia, are already several critical trade deals up on us.
For B.C., it’s no secret that too few of our companies are pursuing exporting and the growth opportunities it affords. And that’s a key area our province needs to address to enable our companies to grow and thrive.
But to do so, we need a robust foundation of solid trade deals, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Without that puzzle piece, our companies will start out at a major disadvantage vis-à-vis their global peers. And at that point, all the export training and company support in the world risks falling flat. Because what company wants to gamble on exports when the deck is rigged against it?
So as the federal government canvasses input from Canadians from coast to coast to coast, we need to make sure, as British Columbians, that we stand tall and make some noise in support of this deal, because this is the trade deal made for B.C.
Workers at Grand Hale Marine Products prepare roe herring for the Japanese market in their plant in Vancouver last week. B.C.’s seafood and shellfish businesses could stand to benefit greatly from Canada signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.