Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is B.C.’s holy grail

Prov­ince must fight hard to seal this trade deal, Mau­reen Kirk­bride writes

Vancouver Sun - - OPINION - Mau­reen Kirk­bride is the in­terim CEO at the B.C. Cham­ber of Com­merce.

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.

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