REGINA – Twelve countries, including Canada, have agreed to create the world’s largest regional trade zone.
After five days of around-the-clock negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will replace NAFTA, is a deal that covers 40 percent of the world’s economy.
The new trade deal means more markets for Saskatchewan cattle producers. Tariffs in Vietnam and Malaysia have been dropped and greatly reduced in Japan.
“Japan – they have a 38 and a half percent tariff there and our competitors in beef exporting in the U.S., Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand would all be moving ahead of us,” said Ryder Lee, Saskatchewan Cattlmen’s Association CEO.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement still has to pass through parliament. Whether or not to ratify this trade deal has become a federal election issue. Both the NDP and the Green party say they won’t be bound by the terms of the TPP, while the Liberals want to review it.
However, for the beef industry in Saskatchewan, ratifying the TPP means staying competitive.
“It’s not just (about) potential future growth, it’s even about keeping what we’ve got,” Lee said.
“We’re going to see significant increase in access for our ag products into a market of 800 million people, the largest free-trading block in the world,” said Trade Minister Jeremy Harrison.
The government of Saskatchewan also hopes to see benefits for consumers.
“You’re probably going to end up seeing lower prices in a number of sectors where the tariff barriers have been brought down,” Harrison said.
The dairy industry was one group most concerned with the deal last week. However, producers are “satisfied” the federal government will now compensate farmers for any losses with a $4.3 billion program over the next 15 years.
Grain farmers also stand to gain.
“We see booming markets around the pacific, not just in Asia, but the full rim that runs around the pacific. For Saskatchewan, there will be opportunities in these markets,” said Carlo Dade, director of the Centre for Trade & Investment Policy with the Canada West Foundation.
Dade said Canada can no longer take the American market for granted. There are more countries at the table and future growth relies on dealing with more players.