Simon Tucker is New Zealand's high commissioner to Canada.
Let's agree: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a perfect trade agreement. It is certainly not the answer to every economic question facing New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the United States or any of the other eight countries that concluded the negotiations in Atlanta last month. It is, however, the largest, most comprehensive and arguably the most important new trade agreement the world has seen in the past quarter-century.
With the World Trade Organization's Doha round moving with less speed than Canada's glaciers, it was understandable that a small group of countries with similar economic visions (beginning with Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore) decided to take matters into our own hands. We wanted to make it easier and more profitable for our importers, exporters and investors to do what they do best. And we also saw its strategic potential to grow into a historic, pan-Pacific agreement that could set a new benchmark for trade deals. The 12 TPP members make up 36 per cent of global gross domestic product and that figure will grow as others come on board. We know this trade model works.
New Zealand and Canada are both TPP members and trading countries. In my experience, trade runs deep in the Canadian soul. From the early voyagers who paddled the Canadian river network collecting beaver pelts to the lumberjacks who logged the Ottawa Valley, these entrepreneurs set out to deliver unique Canadian products to the international market. The returns from these businesses and those that have grown around them over the past centuries have driven the development of towns and cities, services and quality of life that has made Canada such a wonderful place to live.
For Canadian farmers and businesses to make the most of global demographic shifts, increased access to markets in the Asia-Pacific region is essential. In 2014, Canada exported $52.2-billion worth of goods and services to Asia, second only to the United States as a trading partner. The TPP will give Canadian exporters new market access to Australia, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, as well as improved access into Mexico and the United States.
High-quality trade deals such as the TPP are not just about exports. Companies that buy from overseas as well as Canadian consumers will benefit from the greater choice of competitively priced imports that the TPP will provide.
As we head further into the 21st century, the opportunity for food-producing countries such as Canada and New Zealand has never been greater. The United Nations has warned that by 2050, global demand for food will nearly double. There will be an extra two billion mouths to feed. Our farmers and our manufacturers are going to have to be even more effective than they already are to meet this demand, and trade can be a powerful tool for driving efficiency.
Along with these extra mouths to feed, there is a generational shift in consumer demand. As developing countries prosper, tastes and appetites diversify. A new middle class of hundreds of millions of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region will ensure that the demand picture remains strong for the foreseeable future.
As New Zealand's departing high commissioner to Canada, I have been fortunate to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country. I have visited all 10 provinces, two territories and countless farms, factories, businesses and universities. I have talked to farmers, politicians, entrepreneurs and exporters and seen first-hand how extraordinarily well-positioned Canada is to compete in an ever-changing international marketplace.
The current membership of the TPP is already significant, but we are only just scratching the surface. The TPP establishes a new high-quality trade policy benchmark for the region. And as New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser says, "The TPP bus will keep moving." The trade agreement has been purposely designed as a living agreement – to expand in both substance and membership, across the region. A number of partners across the Asia-Pacific region have already put their hands up to participate and others are not far behind. I have no doubt that China is watching with great interest.
At more than 6,000 pages long, the TPP text will take some time to digest. In both New Zealand and Canada, there will be open, consultative and democratic processes undertaken before our governments make decisions about signature and ratification.
The TPP is not perfect, but let us not make perfect the enemy of the very, very good. The TPP is an important stepping stone. It will hard-wire the economies of Canada and New Zealand into the most dynamic region of the world, and in this particular theatre of open trade and investment, the production is exciting and the cast continues to grow.