If the Trouble with the TPP is that it is unlikely to generate significant economic growth or create many new jobs (some studies predict job losses), where are the benefits? The agricultural sector is often pointed to as a likely winner with the expectation that more open markets will result in Canadian farmers selling more beef, pork, canola, and other products. Those predictions may prove true, but based on what the Standing Committee on International Trade has heard, there are many other agricultural sectors that stand to lose as a result of the deal.
The dairy industry is the most obvious sector that projects losses in the billions of dollars. Indeed, the Conservative government promised billions of taxpayer dollars as compensation for those losses. When the dairy industry appeared before the committee, it made it clear that it expects the Liberal government to honour the same payout, arguing that the compensation – which amounts to $150,000 per dairy farmer – is part of the agreement (even if not actually part of the TPP text).
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The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade agreement that encompasses nearly 40 per cent of world GDP, heads to Hawaii later this month for ministerial-level negotiations. According to media reports, this may be the final round of talks, with countries expected to address the remaining contentious issues with their “best offers” in the hope that an agreement can be reached. Canadian coverage of the TPP has centred primarily on U.S. demands for changes to longstanding agricultural market safeguards.
With a national election a few months away, my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the prospect of overhauling some of Canada’s biggest business sectors has politicians from all parties waffling on the agreement. Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who will lead the Canadian delegation, maintains that the government has not agreed to dismantle supply management protections and that it will only enter into an agreement if the deal is in the best interests of the country. The opposition parties are similarly hesitant to stake out positions on key issues, noting that they cannot judge the TPP until it is concluded and publicly released.
While the agricultural issues may dominate debate, it is only one unresolved issue of many. Indeed, the concerns associated with the agreement go far beyond the supply of products such as milk and chickens.
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The European Commission has posted a public update on the status of the agricultural provisions in the proposed Canada – EU Trade Agreement. The EC says the goal is to conclude the agreement at a Ministerial meeting in Ottawa on February 7th, though reports suggest that may be overly optimistic. The state of the agricultural provisions is described as follows:
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