The news trickling out of the APEC Summit in Vietnam on November 10 was confusing. Was the Trans-Pacific Partnership moving ahead, did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sabotage efforts to revive it, or was it being “re-revived” after all? Only now is the smoke lifting, as the extent of the damage to Canada’s trading reputation in Asia and the potential losses to western Canada’s export-based economy are revealed.
As the remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 countries (TPP11) prepare to move on, without not just the US but, according to rumblings coming out of Asia, possibly also Canada, the costs of the Trudeau government’s shenanigans on the world stage are becoming clear. The first cost is losing out on the immediate economic gains from a rapid coming into effect of a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement without the US. The second is the reputational damage caused by Trudeau’s decision to play coy on the deal, stand up his fellow heads of state, and torpedo Canada’s best and only chance to catch up in the Asian trade race. And all for what? To protect a few narrow domestic interests from a trade agreement — the TPP — that in fact offers better terms for the dairy and auto sectors than what’s currently on the table in NAFTA?