Canada and Japan agree to start free trade talks

TOKYO — Stephen Harper hailed the opening of free trade talks with Japan on Sunday as a “historic opportunity” while economic experts warned of the perils of opening borders to the world’s third largest economy.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

TOKYO — Stephen Harper hailed the opening of free trade talks with Japan on Sunday as a “historic opportunity” while economic experts warned of the perils of opening borders to the world’s third largest economy.

The prime minister’s long-anticipated announcement was made with his Japanese counterpart following a bilateral meeting here and came with pledges that an economic partnership would bring a bonanza of economic opportunity.

“The potential for increased trade between us that will create jobs and growth and long-term prosperity is really enormous,” Harper said at a media availability following one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

He estimated Canadian exports to the island nation could increase by two-thirds and pledged to do what he could to protect sectors that might be in danger.

“We will make sure when we sit around the table, as we do in all these negotiations, that we will try and get a deal that’s not just good for the Canadian economy as a whole, but protects all of our various sectors. That’s our ambition, but we have to do what’s best for the entire Canadian economy.”

To do that, trade experts say Canada will have to up its game because the Japanese are tough, skilled negotiators, and probably the most formidable the Harper government has faced since it launched its ambitious series of bilateral negotiations.

“We are dealing in East Asia with sophisticated states with strong negotiating teams, and often with strong domestic lobbies,” said Gordon Houlden, a trade expert and former government official.

Ron MacIntosh, a research associate at China Institute and former trade negotiator who served in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, said the Harper government will endure a learning curve in “Asian realities.”

In order to be successful, MacIntosh said Canadians will have to remind themselves that free trade in this part of the world is about more than just lowering tariffs and distorting subsidies.

He said it also includes investment rules, intellectual property, competition policy and currency management, among other things.

If an accord is eventually reached, it would be Japan’s first with a country from the Group of Eight major economies.

But Houlden warned not to expect a quick agreement and predicted that one of Canada’s main objectives — gaining greater access to the Japanese agriculture market — will face stiff opposition.

“Agriculture in Japan is super-protected and has an almost mystical status,” said Houlden, who noted how Australia struggled with similar issues in its negotiations with Tokyo.

After being shut out of Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, known as the TPP, Canada and Japan embarked on a joint study on economic co-operation, which found a lot of common ground.

Houlden suggested Japan was motivated to open trade talks because it has endured a decade of little or no growth while at the same time watching China’s economy boom.

Noda told a joint news conference that Japan was interested in increasing investment in Canada’s natural gas sector.

He also announced the two countries will pursue enhanced defence and security co-operation, including the establishment of a small supply base the Canadian military could use in emergencies.

Noda made a point of framing defence co-operation in the context of renewed regional concerns with the new regime in Pyongyang.

“We reaffirmed the importance to tackle outstanding global issues, particularly the issues surrounding North Korea and others in the Asia-Pacific region, as we co-operate as partners,” Noda said.

North Korea says it will launch an observation satellite on a long-range rocket next month.

Japan shares U.S. and South Korean fears that Pyongyang wants to test long-range missiles that could eventually deliver nuclear warheads.

The Japanese and Canadian leaders will be heading to Seoul to attend this week’s Nuclear Security Summit.

Harper, who will visit the earthquake and tsunami-ravaged region of Sendai on Monday, made a point of praising Noda for “the true and clear leadership” he showed through the crisis, and how quickly Japan has rebuilt.

“I have quite great admiration for what you are doing here,” he said.

The Japanese people were “deeply touched” by the expressions of support and assistance from Canada, Noda said.

In a meeting with some of the heavy-hitters of Japan’s business community late Sunday, Harper talked up the advantages of investment in Canada and underscored economic stability.

“It’s a challenging time in the global economy, but Canada is a country that has the soundest banking system in the world, that has a fiscal position that is strong, and we are going to eliminate our deficit much more rapidly than most other Western countries,” he said.

Among those in attendance was Yorihiko Kojima, chairman of Mitsubishi Corp., as well as the managing directors of the Toyota Motor Corp. and the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd..

Travis Toews, represented the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association at the meeting and said he’s confident the country, including the agriculture sector, will make gains in the talks.

It had been anticipated that Harper’s trip would see Japan relax some of the restrictions it imposed on Canadian beef following the mad cow scare a year ago, but Toews says the issue is still being studied.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

Collin Orthner, manager at McBain Camera in downtown Red Deer, stands behind the store’s counter on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
A few Red Deer businesses happy with Black Friday results

While this year’s Black Friday wasn’t as successful as it was in… Continue reading

Le Chateau Inc. is the latest Canadian firm to start producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, in a July 3, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Hundreds of millions of dollars for frontline workers yet to be released, says Alberta Federation of Labour

Information recently released by the Alberta Federation of Labour suggests more than… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

Banff National Park. (The Canadian Press)
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

EDMONTON — A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths on railway tracks… Continue reading

Cows on pasture at the University of Vermont dairy farm eat hay Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Burlington, Vt. Canadian dairy farmers are demanding compensation from the government because of losses to their industry they say have been caused by a series of international trade deals. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Lisa Rathke
Feds unveil more funding for dairy, poultry and egg farmers hurt by free trade deals

OTTAWA — Canadian egg and poultry farmers who’ve lost domestic market share… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Canada's top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track for new COVID-19 infections as case counts continue mounting in much of the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
COVID-19 cases in Canada remain on troubling course, Tam says, amid rising numbers

Canada’s top doctor says the country is still on a troubling track… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

Most Read