GLOBE EDITORIAL: TPP-Less than hoped for, less than feared.(Globe and Mail – October 6, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement reached by 12 countries on Monday morning looks like a good deal – good, and not quite as big as promised. Both the positives and negatives in the deal appear to be smaller than hoped, or feared.

The broad strokes of the deal are known, though the precise details won’t be out for a few days. The TPP will open closed sectors of the Canadian economy, such as dairy, poultry and eggs – but by less than expected. In pharmaceutical patents, an area of concern to Canadians, the TPP’s changes to the status quo also appear to be smaller than advertised. And while the agreement, which includes Japan and the United States (but not China), is being sold as the biggest trade deal ever, it is not as revolutionary as all that.

Thanks to three decades of trade liberalization, from the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement to NAFTA to the World Trade Organization, Canada’s trade is already largely free. The remaining old-style tariff barriers are few and generally low. The TPP is mostly about taking one more step down that path.

As citizens of one of the world’s most trade-dependent countries, Canadians need to be part of major trade and investment agreements for two reasons: fear and opportunity.

The fear is of being left out of deals done by our trading partners, which would put Canadian exporters at a disadvantage. The opportunity is to deliver benefits to Canadian companies and consumers, by making it easier for the former to export, while pushing down the price of imports for the latter.

That benefit of free trade – introducing competition for domestic businesses makes things cheaper for consumers – is hardly ever talked about. But it’s the most important reason. A trade deal should be judged partly on what it does for Canadian business, but above all on what it does for millions of Canadian consumers.

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