October 29, 2018 – Canada will be in the first group of countries to take advantage of a major Asia-Pacific trade deal after royal assent was granted to a key bill on Thursday afternoon.

“This milestone achievement reaffirms Canada’s strong commitment to Canadian companies, industries and the millions of Canadians they employ,” said a statement from the office of Trade Minister Jim Carr, allowing the country to retain “first-mover advantage in many thriving Asia-Pacific markets.” The 11-country pact, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can come into force 60 days after six countries pass legislation. Mexico ratified the deal in June, Japan in June and Singapore in September.

The 11 parties to the deal and in some cases their respective new governments — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — signed an updated version in March after less than a year of re-negotiation after the USA withdrew. The countries represent a combined $13.5 trillion in GDP. Japan has since said it hopes the U.S. will eventually re-join the agreement.

The CPTPP’s conclusion came after considerable consternation over Canada’s involvement, particularly in Japan, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau missed a leaders-level meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit about a year ago.

Since the updated version of the trade agreement was signed, complete with the new “comprehensive and progressive” name proposed by Canada, the push has been on to view the CPTPP not just as a balance against China but also as a way for countries to diversify trade outside of a more-protectionist U.S.

The importance of the deal “has grown over recent months with the rapid escalation or protectionist measures around the world,” the N.Z. trade minister, David Parker, said in a Thursday statement. The re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which ended in a revised deal called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) just weeks ago, highlighted the importance of diversification, said Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “We must never again allow ourselves to be so vulnerable.”

Canada’s implementing legislation passed the House of Commons last Wednesday after the NDP, concerned that not enough debate time was being given to the complex agreement, held up attempts to speed its passage.

What followed was an extraordinarily short deliberation in the Senate, where there was little if any opposition to the premise of the new trade deal. The bill unanimously passed third reading on Thursday afternoon just over a week after it was referred to the upper chamber. Then within hours it was signed into law by the Secretary to the Governor General.

A Senate committee had concluded that being among the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP was paramount: “The committee recognizes the potential benefits of the CPTPP and understands the significance that Canada be among those first six countries to ratify the agreement to ensure that Canadian businesses are not put at a competitive disadvantage,” said a report from the Senate’s standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade.

As Liberal Sen. Jim Munson put it on Thursday afternoon: “We’re all on the same page.”

Canadian companies are expected to gain 99-per-cent tariff-free access to the countries that have ratified the deal, including Japan, as early as January. Source: The National Post