Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Canada Should Be in Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canadian, US Business Leaders Say

Leaders of two influential Canadian and U.S. business groups Tuesday called for Canada to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that the country shouldn't be pressured to give up its supply management practice that protects dairy and poultry farmers in return for entry into the trade group.
Canada is keen to join the TPP as it seeks to expand trade with fast-growing emerging markets, a move which acquired added urgency following the Obama administration's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project.
It is "absolutely essential" for Canada to be at the table for negotiations for the TPP, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue, who cited the long-standing geopolitical and security relationship between the two North American Free Trade Agreement partners.
"Canada should be a part of it and we vigorously support it," Mr. Donohue said in an interview here on the sidelines of an economic conference.
Some officials say the U.S. isn't keen to have Canada at the table in the early round of negotiations, which, according to Mr. Donohue, was "encouraged by people that had delusions that they could move more quickly" on the negotiations without new entrants. The idea was that others would be welcomed once an agreement had been nailed down. He disagrees with this notion, saying that it would be better if Canada, as well as fellow NAFTA member Mexico, were at the table.
The TPP, originally signed in 2005, comprises the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. All nine countries have to agree to the inclusion of any new member.
Canada's supply management practice is a potentially sticky issue, but Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Beatty said all countries have different issues with regards to barriers in their agriculture sectors.
"The whole point of trade negotiations is you don't negotiate in advance," Mr. Beatty said in the joint interview with Mr. Donohue.
Canada's Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said separately that the endorsement from the business leaders was "helpful" and "positive."
The business leaders also said they expect TransCanada Corp.'s (TRP, TRP.T) planned Keystone XL pipeline expansion to receive full approval after the U.S. presidential election in November. The project envisions greatly increasing oil exports from Alberta to the U.S.
Mr. Donohue said the rejection of the line earlier this year by U.S. President Barack Obama was a "purely political decision" due to pressure from environmentalists. He said he expects the section of line from Oklahoma to Louisiana to be approved any time now, and for the rest to be given the go-ahead after the presidential election.
"The sooner that it's built, the better it is for the U.S. economy and for U.S. energy security," Mr. Beatty said.
Write to Nirmala Menon at nirmala.menon@dowjones.com
-Karen Johnson in Montreal contributed to this article.