Canada is taking a neutral position on the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal at a key Pacific-Rim summit in the Philippines focused on expanding trade and boosting global growth.
Signing on to the 12 member trade deal was a signature accomplishment of Stephen Harper's Conservative government, but the deal was finalized in the midst of Canada's federal election campaign that ended Oct. 19.
The full text of more than 6,000 pages was not released until Nov. 5 – a day after the new cabinet was sworn in – leaving the new Liberal government to manage criticism from Canada's auto sector that the U.S. got a better deal than Canada in terms of protecting local jobs.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland came early to Manila and have been telling TPP allies that Canada's new government is pro-trade, but also that it intends to put the deal to a full consultation in Parliament. Essentially, the Liberal government is declining to say whether or not it actually supports the TPP.
"Everybody appreciates that we are a pro-trade government and everybody understands that we have to consult our people," said Mr. Dion. "Ratification is not tomorrow for [any] country so we'll have the time to engage Canadians seriously about this trade deal."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Manila Tuesday evening to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, a gathering of 21 Pacific economies, including Russia and China.
However the meeting also presents the first opportunity for the 12 member nations of the Trans Pacific Trade deal, which does not include Russia and China, to share notes since the text of the deal was released earlier this month, fuelling strong domestic criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Washington in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election.
Ms. Freeland noted that the Liberal government was only sworn in on Nov. 4 and that time is needed to review the text and consult Canadians, stakeholders and Parliament.
"The Liberal party supports free trade," she said. "We also very much appreciate that we are not the government that negotiated this deal."
One of the strongest criticisms of the deal in Canada has come from the auto sector, which objects to provisions that will allow Japanese auto imports into Canada much sooner than they would be allowed to enter into the United States.
The deal would allow Japanese vehicles to enter Canada duty free within five years of the agreement coming into force. In contrast, the United States negotiated a 25 year timeline for phasing out similar tariffs.
Mr. Trudeau will have an opportunity to discuss this directly with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when the two hold a bilateral meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC summit.
On Thursday, Mr. Trudeau is scheduled to hold his first bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
Mr. Trudeau arrives at APEC following a stop in Antalya, Turkey for the G20 summit, where he delivered a speech on the need for stimulus to promote economic growth and then posed for selfies with excited audience members.
The celebrity tone to Mr. Trudeau's tour has ramped up in Manila.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer put a photo of Mr. Trudeau on the front page next to a photo of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
"Ladies' Choice: 'Are you with Team Nieto or Team Trudeau?' easily becomes the question of the hour," the caption stated, describing the two as "APEC hotties" who are "trending on social media."
An accompanying front page news story is titled: "Girls have only eyes for Trudeau, Nieto," and described the local welcome Mr. Trudeau received at the airport.
"A group of smartphone-toting airport employees and staff of the Bureau of Immigration took time off to get a glimpse of the 43-year-old Canadian Prime Minister when he landed," the story states. "Aware of Trudeau's popularity, a member of the Malacanang media office earlier reminded journalists covering his arrival against shouting and making shrieks."
Mr. Trudeau is also scheduled to hold bilateral meetings Wednesday with his counterparts from South Korea and the Philippines.