Trade minister promises to "proceed expeditiously" with ratifying CPTPP

Canada and ten other Pacific countries are officially signing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) this afternoon in Santiago, Chile.

This isn’t the first time Canada has signed a deal with the words “Trans-Pacific Partnership” in the name. The Liberal government also signed the original TPP in New Zealand in February 2016, but did not introduce legislation to ratify it before the U.S. withdrew from the deal in January 2017.

This time around, the Canadian government plans to “proceed expeditiously” with ratifying the 11-member pact, said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, speaking from Chile on Thursday.

Despite being asked several times, he did not provide any further details on the timeline for implementing the CPTPP, which will give Canadian agricultural exports improved access into several major Asian markets, including Japan.

“We have to committed to both the Senate colleagues and my colleagues in the House to proceed expeditiously, and that’s exactly what we want to do. I don’t want to speculate about that,” said the minister.

Officials in Ottawa have started drafting the legislation that will need to be introduced and passed by Parliament before the trade deal can take effect in Canada, he said. The CPTPP itself must also be ratified by six member countries to be brought into force.

Champagne suggested one of the reasons to move ahead quickly with ratifying the CPTPP is it would send a message to other countries. “I think it sends a signal to the world that we are committed to a rules-based trading order in the Asia Pacific, and that we want fair and open trade in that part of the world.”

Recently there’s been talk about the U.S. possibly re-joining the multilateral deal. President Trump has said he “would do TPP, if we made a much better deal than we had.”

“There are a number of countries that have indicated an interest to join, whether it’s Korea, Taiwan, even the United Kingdom. Certainly, I’ve seen comments about the U.S. having discussions about a potential re-entry,” said Champagne. “From the Canadian perspective, we would welcome countries who may want to join the pact, but certainly this would have to be in line with the progressive element and the high standards we have achieved in the agreement.”

The CPTPP includes these 11 countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

After the signing ceremony is complete in Santiago, Champagne is headed to Asunción, Paraguay, where he will announce the formal launch of trade negotiations with the Mercosur group of countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) on Friday.

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