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Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Tuesday.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government is right to take part in negotiations for the most ambitious free trade bloc in the world: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

If successful, the TPP would give Canada access to a market of 510 million people and a gross domestic product of $17.6-trillion, in a number of buoyant emerging economies in Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

The current members of the TPP negotiations are the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Peru and Mexico, this last nation having been invited to join on Monday at the G20 summit in Los Cabos.

Ideally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would have shown some willingness much earlier to eliminate the supply management system that protects Canada's poultry and dairy farmers; his initial refusal to do so kept Canada out of earlier rounds of TPP negotiations. The dairy lobby is largely situated in Quebec, where the Conservatives have only five seats. Mr. Harper still insisted on Tuesday in Los Cabos that Canada stands by its strong commitment to defending the dairy sector in trade talks.

However, it is clear that agricultural protectionism is simply no match for the benefits of trade liberalization. Canada's traditional export markets – the U.S. and Europe – are stagnant, while East Asian and Latin American economies are booming.

The goal of the TPP is to eliminate all tariffs on goods and services among participating countries, as well as negotiate freer government procurement; better intellectual property protection; increased regulatory coherence; and labour and environmental rights.

That means that by joining the regional trade bloc, Canada can not only deepen its engagement with Asia but also update and modernize the North American free-trade agreement without having to reopen it.

With Canada and the U.S. at the TPP negotiating table, the potential trade market increases to 658 million people with a GDP of $20-trillion. That is a club worth belonging to – and bolsters Mr. Harper's laudable goal of broadening trade partnerships around the world.