With Canada’s “progressive trade agenda” meeting more apparent resistance from prospective trade partners than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intended, Canadian officials are now discussing how the strategy might be reworked, according to sources in the Canadian foreign affairs community.
An insistence on prioritizing provisions related to gender, Indigenous issues, labour and the environment appears to have created hurdles in Canada’s three priority free trade negotiations: the launch of bilateral talks with China, the signing of a Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (renamed at Canada’s behest) and a renegotiation of the behemoth North American Free Trade Agreement.
With the 11-country CPTPP, Canada’s emphasis on getting a more progressive deal has been cited as one of the issues keeping it from endorsing the deal — although what is said to be a vague request for better cultural protections is the only issue actually being discussed at the moment. Mitsuru Myochin, an official from the Japanese headquarters for the TPP, said further meetings aimed at finalizing the deal have not yet been scheduled, but discussions have continued with Canadian officials over the cultural issue. Joseph Pickerill, a spokesman for Canada’s trade minister, said Monday “there is still some work to be done.”
Asked to comment on the idea that the government is rethinking its approach, Pickerill doubled down on the concept of progressive trade and called it a competitive advantage. “A progressive trade agenda opens more doors, raises standards and positions the middle class for success,” he said.
The prime minister told the Post on Tuesday that his agenda recognizes the benefits of trade must be widely shared. Responding to the notion that Canada’s trade partners aren’t buying it, he said, “But we feel that way. I’m not going to accept a bad deal just to get a deal, if I know it’s going to leave out workers and middle class Canadians.”
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