The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal – that would have created the world's largest free-trade zone – is all but dead, now that the Obama administration has given up hope of a last-ditch effort to ratify it amid a rising tide of protectionism.
A former senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling on Canada to shift focus and try to negotiate free-trade deals with Japan and other Asian countries.
Departing U.S President Barack Obama had been determined to win an uphill fight to get congressional approval of the deal during the lame-duck session in the final weeks of 2016. That was before Donald Trump, a fierce opponent of the TPP, won the presidential election Nov. 8.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer, soon to be the senior Democrat in the U.S. Senate, told labour leaders this week the Trans-Pacific accord will not be ratified by the U.S. Congress. The Washington Post reported that Mr. Schumer was relaying statements made to him by Republican Congressional leaders in the wake of the Trump victory.
The Canadian government declined to comment on the fate of the TPP Friday, with a spokesman for International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland saying the Liberals will continue to seek the opinions of Canadians on the deal.
The pact, however, will mean little for the 11 countries that negotiated it without the participation of the largest economy: the United States.
"We made a commitment to consult Canadians on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we will abide by that commitment," Alex Lawrence, press secretary for Ms. Freeland, said in a statement. "The House of Commons trade committee is studying the TPP's impact, and has not concluded its consultations; we will continue to support this work."
A former senior aide to the Prime Minister, however, called the pan-Pacific trade deal "dead man walking."
Roland Paris, former top foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau, urged Canada to "pursue Plan B," which he said should be trade deals with Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Canada and Japan had already conducted seven rounds of free-trade negotiations before TPP talks escalated and took precedence in 2015. All 12 negotiating parties had concluded a TPP agreement in October of 2015 but each country was required to ratify the deal afterward.
Japan was always the big prize for Canada in the TPP deal. The accord would have given Canadian producers far better access to Japan's traditionally sheltered market – for beef, pork, fish, canola, barley and other products. However, it would also have eliminated tariffs on Japanese vehicles and made it easier for North American auto makers to use offshore parts.
"I would think Japan will now be looking for alternate strategies," Mr. Paris said. Japan's House of Representatives this week voted to ratify TPP.
Canada already has free-trade deals with a significant portion of would-be TPP member economies, including the U.S., Mexico and Chile. Joining the TPP was largely a defensive move for Canada because it promised to give other countries the privileged access to the U.S. that Canadian businesses have enjoyed for decades.
The TPP was supposed to be a counterweight to Chinese influence in Asia by enshrining North American-style rules for trade and intellectual property protection in the region.
The TPP was one of two trade deals negotiated by the former Harper government. The Liberals embraced the Canada-European Union trade deal and managed to secure final EU approval for it but never publicly supported the TPP – saying they would consult first.