Feds seeking TPP changes on intellectual property, supply management and culture

Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau

Canadian negotiators are pushing for three key changes to the original Trans-Pacific Partnership as leaders of the remaining countries interested in reviving the controversial treaty prepare to meet this week.

A senior government official says Ottawa’s negotiating team is seeking modifications to the original TPP deal in many areas, but primarily in the intellectual-property provisions, its approach on cultural exemptions and Canada’s supply management system for dairy, poultry and eggs.

The 11 remaining TPP economies have moved ahead with talks in recent months in an effort to resurrect the Pacific Rim deal after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew earlier this year.

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The pact is expected to be a central topic this week in Da Nang, Vietnam, at a meeting of leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation bloc, which will include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the other 10 TPP leaders.

During his week-long visit to Asia, Trudeau will also hold an official visit with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang and travel to the Philippines to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila.

On TPP, International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told The Canadian Press he wants a better deal before he signs a revamped version of the deal.

Negotiators, he said, will be seeking the suspension of some provisions that were part of the original agreement.

Champagne also said Canada has been pursuing improvements to the TPP, which was negotiated by the previous Conservative government, through side letters and possible work programs with Japan.

He did not get into specifics on which parts of the deal he would like to see changed.

Champagne, who will also participate in APEC meetings this week in Vietnam, did say Canada is pushing for the revised pact to contain “progressive” chapters on the environment, labour and gender equality. He added that New Zealand’s new government is also looking at a similar approach.

“We’ve been trying to stay at the table making sure that we push the progressive elements, try to get a better deal for Canadians and then bring it back home,” he said.

“It’s really about making sure we understand the non-tariff trade barriers and that we address them.”

The original TPP included contentious provisions that angered some sectors in Canada, including the dairy and high-tech industries.

For example, Ottawa was forced to table a multibillion-dollar compensation package for farmers because the deal would have raised the amount of foreign dairy entering Canada by 3.25 per cent.

Canada’s tech sector has also warned TPP’s original intellectual property rules would have favoured the more dominant U.S. and its firms, which have already amassed a far bigger portfolio of patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Intellectual property is viewed by many as a crucial component of the expanding – and increasingly important – knowledge-based economy.

On cultural exemptions, the government official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the meetings, said Ottawa is seeking stronger commitments.

For example, the official said the original TPP’s cultural exemptions are chapter by chapter as opposed to the more-global approach in the current North American Free Trade Agreement, which is preferred by the sector.

Overall, the official said Ottawa’s priority is preserving market access, but that it’s working to find ways to make it a better deal.

Negotiators from the 11 TPP economies, which are all members of APEC, have already begun talks in Vietnam.

There are expectations the leaders could have something to announce related to the deal later in the week.

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