HONOLULU — The international trade minister says Canada has expressed interest in being at the table for talks on a new Asia-Pacific free trade group, but won’t pre-negotiate entry into the club.
Ed Fast acknowledged that some countries are resisting Canada’s membership into the new Trans Pacific Partnership, but he wouldn’t say who.
“There has been some resistance and suggestions that we should be pre-negotiating our entry to the Trans Pacific partnership,” he told reporters ahead of the APEC summit in Hawaii on Saturday.
“We have made it very clear that Canada will not pre-negotiate, we believe all of those issues should be discussed at the negotiating table.”
Observers have said Canada’s supply management policies are what’s keeping the country out of the potentially lucrative new free trade deal among some Asian Pacific nations.
Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam released a statement Saturday saying they had agreed upon broad outlines for the new deal with the goal of continuing negotiations next year.
“We are confident that this agreement will be a model for ambition for other free trade agreements in the future, forging close linkages among our economies, enhancing our competitiveness, benefiting our consumers and supporting the creation and retention of jobs, higher living standards, and the reduction of poverty in our countries,” the statement said.
Japan has also expressed interest in joining the TPP, signalling a willingness to set aside some of its supply management programs to have a role.
Fast refused to say why Canada isn’t prepared to do the same.
“We have negotiated free trade agreements around the world, in total we have free trade agreements with 14 countries, in each case we have been able to negotiate to agreements that are acceptable and that allow us to continue to support our supply management system,” he said.
The government estimated that Canada’s trade with Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation economies grew from $374.6 billion in 1994 to $654.4 billion in 2010. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is having a series of bilateral meetings in advance of the broader APEC leaders summit in Hawaii to continue to push forward with bilateral deals.
He sat down with both the presidents of Chile and Peru and was expected to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao later on Saturday.
No decision has been made yet as to whether U.S. President Barack Obama and Harper will also sit down face-to-face.
The two were supposed to meet Sunday night with Mexican President Felipe Calderon for the North American leaders summit.
But Calderon has pulled out of the meetings after his interior minister was killed Friday in a helicopter crash.