Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Madam Minister, last night I had the honour to co-host the reception on behalf of the Canada-China Legislative Association, at which we welcomed the new Chinese ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Ambassador Lu Shaye.
The ambassador spoke warmly — and I’m going to use some quotes here from his speech — about the “good momentum of development” in the Canada-China relationship and our “deepening pragmatic cooperation” on a wide range of issues. Indeed, he said that we are “ushering Canada-China relationships into a new golden age.”
Minister, the question about how to advance trade in the Asia- Pacific is even more pressing now in the wake of the withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Some countries — Japan, for example — have pushed ahead to ratify the TPP, even without the United States, and are urging other countries to do the same.
There are also countries — Australia, for example — suggesting that TPP could be expanded and opened up to include China. There are also discussions of moving instead to a different regional trade deal involving China, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP. Negotiations are ongoing between China and a number of Asia-Pacific countries but not, to my knowledge, Canada.
Minister, can you tell us what Canada’s plans are for Asia- Pacific economic relations? We could pursue a bilateral trade, Canada and China, we could try to salvage the Trans-Pacific Partnership or we could attempt to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Which one of these options will Canada pursue?
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs: Thank you for the question. I do want to preface my answer by saying while I retain responsibility for the Canada-U.S. economic relationship, I am no longer trade minister, and we now have the extremely competent François-Philippe Champagne whose is more bilingual than I am. I hope you will invite him here.
And Mr. Champagne also speaks perfect Italian, so you can quiz him in Italian. I am sure he will have some great answers. Having said that, I love trade issues, so I will offer a few thoughts.
On the China trade relationship, something that I think is very important for Canadians to appreciate — and having grown up on a farm in northern Alberta — I am sitting here beside two Alberta senators. It’s great to be here. I have spent many hours swamping canola on our family farm.
One of the things we achieved with our double visits, both our visit to China and with the visit of Premier Li to Canada, was to resolve our dispute over canola. We resolved that at the end of September. This was serious. Canadian canola was not being shipped to China as long as that dispute was outstanding.
I checked before coming here today, and I am proud to say that since the end of September, there have been 39 shipments of Canadian canola to China worth $840 million. That is a lot of canola.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Ms. Freeland: And I do want to say congratulations to our outstanding entrepreneurial and hard-working farmers who are producing that great food.
I’m citing that example because I think sometimes when we get together in august chambers like this one and talk about trade, it can seem very ethereal and not connect with the lives of real people.
That’s why, when we went to China, I brought a jar of canola actually grown by my dad and gave it to the Chinese to say this is real and concrete for us. I saw the Chinese foreign minister on the margins of the Munich Security Conference two weeks ago and he said, “It’s nice to see you, Lady Canola,” so that’s now my nickname. I am proud to be Lady Canola.
In any event, as you say, senator, there are opportunities that we are exploring with China. We announced at the end of September the launch of exploratory talks towards an FTA with China, and the first round of face-to-face meetings in that process was held in February.
On the TPP, it’s important for people to understand that that agreement had a very is specific architecture. The architecture of the TPP is such that it can only come into force if it is ratified by a minimum of six countries equal to a minimum of 85 per cent of the economic activity covered by the TPP countries. In practice, what that means is the TPP can only come into force if it is ratified by both the U.S. and Japan. So there can be no TPP without U.S. ratification.
It is absolutely the case that some sort of other combination of TPP interested countries could happen. Chile is convening a meeting of TPP countries next week, and Canada will be there. China has been invited and the U.S. has been invited also, so different combinations are being discussed.
But I do want to caution honourable senators from thinking that it would be as simple as just taking the United States out. These agreements are very delicately balanced deals, and everyone makes different concessions based on the concessions they’re getting. If the U.S., with its huge market, is taken out of that picture, then a new calculus would apply to everyone. So reconstituting the TPP11 would be a complicated thing to do.
Having said that, those talks are being convened. Canada is very much at the table and I know that François-Philippe Champagne will be an energetic member of those conversations.
I’ll say one final thing on the Asia-Pacific space. In August, we were at the ASEAN trade ministers’ meeting in Laos. I was there, and we reached an agreement with ASEAN to have an exploratory study done on an FTA between Canada and the ASEAN countries, so that is, again, on the foothills of a closer relationship with those countries.
In conclusion, I do want to assure you, senator, and all of your colleagues here, that I personally and our government collectively absolutely understand the economic opportunities for Canada in the Asia-Pacific. We are exploring them very energetically.