North and South Korea wrapped up a historic international summit last week, but one Canadian cabinet minister says a future that includes trade with the so-called “Hermit Kingdom” remains a long way off.
“This is a situation that is (still) unfolding,” said François-Philippe Champagne on this weekend’s edition of The West Block.
WATCH: Korean leaders wrap up first summit in over a decade
Champagne noted that Canada already has major economic and even political interests in the Asia-Pacific region with its involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“We helped write the rules of trade in the Asia Pacific region, (and) this is a significant achievement,” the minister said. “When we were at the table, it was as much about geopolitics as it was about trade.”
South Korea has since expressed a desire to join the pact, he added. Asked what might happen if North Korea also wanted to engage with the TPP block of nations, Champagne replied: “Well, we’re not there yet, I would say.”
‘A march to the top’ on NAFTA
He also addressed the ongoing efforts to renegotiate NAFTA, suggesting that Canada is still pushing for stronger labour standards amid reports that the United States hasn’t been championing higher wages for Mexican workers as much as expected.
“You would not expect me to negotiate in public, but what I will say is that obviously we are looking into that,” he said.
“We are always at the forefront of making sure that these standards become higher. This is not a race to the bottom in terms of standards. This is a march to the top.”
According to Champagne, “the mood is good” in Washington, where NAFTA talks have seemingly reached a critical stage.
“Things that were tough in the time of Brian Mulroney remain tough today,” he added. “Whether you talk about public procurement, whether you talk about Chapter 19, whether you talk about rules of origin, … what we saw in Washington this week was good progress.”
— Watch the full interview with François-Philippe Champagne above