Threats to rip up NAFTA and trash the TPP send a chill down the spines of Canadians whose livelihoods depend on trade. And while the Trump administration’s action plan is not yet clear, it is crystal clear that Canada’s past and future depend on trade.
Throughout history Canada has been a trading nation and that’s not going to change. Nowhere is this more evident than in our agriculture and agri-food sector. Just as there weren’t enough Canadians to buy beaver felt hats, there’s no way we could eat what Canadian farmers produce. Fully 90 per cent of our farmers depend on exports and more than half of everything we produce goes beyond our borders.
Competitive access to global markets is not a choice, it is a requirement. Canadian agriculture produces what the world needs. But we can’t thrive if trade barriers prevent us from being competitive with others who have been better at reaching trade agreements, like Australia that already has agreements with Japan and China.
Canada needs to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers through free trade agreements. And there is currently no better plan than the TPP. If the Trump administration turns its back on TPP, then Canada has an opportunity to lead like-minded countries on a new approach. While the TPP currently requires the US to participate, if they don’t why not take the fruit from seven years of negotiations and make it work for the other eleven countries?
We’ve already seen how this can happen with Europe. We can take some of the lessons learned and apply them to the TPP.
Pundits were sounding the death knell on the European deal after Belgium threatened to scuttle the deal. But leaders standing up for growth through trade prevailed, and an accord that can benefit all parties is on its way. We can do the same thing with TPP.
Eight out of the 12 signatories have the agreement in front of their parliaments, and Japan has already passed it in their lower house. Canada needs to follow suit.
Beyond TPP members, The Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia have all have expressed an interest in joining. More members mean more opportunity in a region with significant growth potential. It’s not just farmers and food processors who benefit. Communities in urban and rural areas do better when we have better access to foreign markets.
Canada needs to embrace freer trade in the Asia-Pacific according to 21st century rules to fire up the engine that is free trade. Leading discussions on how to implement TPP and harvest prosperity from seven years of negotiation is a prudent path.
-Brian Innes is President of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA)
CAFTA represents farmers, processors and exporters from the beef, pork, grains, oilseed, pulse, soy, malt and sugar sectors. Together, they account for 90% of Canada’s $50 billion agriculture and agri-food exports, supporting 940,000 jobs across Canada.