Is Justin Trudeau ready to navigate the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Can he get the United States to pay attention to our softwood lumber situation?

BC VIEWS: Let’s get real about trade deals

Not participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is unthinkable for B.C., and even with it, our dependence on an indifferent U.S. remains

As the dust settles from Monday’s federal election, to paraphrase former prime minister Kim Campbell, it’s time to talk about serious issues again.

The Conservatives were hoping to make 2015 a free trade election, by signing onto the world’s largest trade deal at the end of July. But things didn’t go as planned at the talks in Maui, and Canada was among the players that walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership table at that time.

Then came five days of round-the-clock negotiations in Atlanta, with the U.S. pushing for a deal with Japan, Korea, Australia and other Pacific Rim powerhouses to normalize trade in 40 per cent of the world’s economy. And the TPP came together at the end of September.

Canada and B.C. essentially got what our governments were demanding, which was broad access to Pacific Rim markets and continued protection for nearly all of domestic dairy, poultry and egg markets. Also preserved was B.C.’s regulated market for logs and U.S. lumber sales.

The 200-kg gorilla of the TPP burst out in the heat of the election campaign, and the Kim Campbell rule was demonstrated again. Much of the discussion revolved around alleged secrecy, as the legal text of the deal won’t be out for some time to come. Protected farmers downed their pitchforks, counting their blessings, and their guaranteed compensation.

The NDP was forced to come out against the TPP, as it was against trade deals with the U.S., Mexico, Europe and others. But it’s getting lonely for them as the rest of the world moves on.

Within days of the TPP deal, the World Bank issued one of its periodic reports on “extreme poverty,” which it defines as an income of less than $1.90 U.S. a day. And 2015 is the first year when fewer than 10 per cent of the world’s people remain below this global poverty line, down from 12.8 per cent in 2012.

It’s easy for comfortable First World folks to protest conditions in running shoe and cell phone factories in India or China, but the graph of extreme poverty in those countries shows steep decline since 1990. Trade and technology are lifting up the poorest of the world.

For B.C., withdrawing from Pacific Rim trade is unthinkable. We worry a lot about lumber and copper and natural gas, but the TPP also opens up huge markets for services, where much of our economic future awaits.

The question for us is simple. Can we compete in health sciences, engineering, architecture, digital media, and information technology? Do we want to?

The TPP doesn’t change B.C.’s dependency on the United States. As with NAFTA, our vital lumber trade remains under a separate agreement, which expired on Oct. 12.

I’m told by federal and provincial officials that at this stage, the U.S. isn’t even taking our calls on the softwood lumber agreement, which Canada and B.C. want extended. Americans are preoccupied with the TPP and domestic politics.

After decades of bitter legal actions from the American industry, the latest softwood deal has provided a rough peace. It set a floor price for B.C.’s allegedly subsidized lumber exports, with an export tax collected by Canada when the price went below the floor of $355 per thousand board feet. That money went back into our government general revenue.

Higher prices meant no export tax was collected through 2014 and early 2015, and only five per cent as of September. Now that the agreement is expired, by default we have actual free trade in lumber for up to the next year.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

Veteran Saanich councillor Vicki Sanders won’t seek re-election

‘Council is becoming more complicated,’ says Coun. Leif Wergeland

Shamrocks hold 1-0 lead over Burrards

Bob Heyes said it is going to be a different game on Sunday in Maple Ridge

‘We will not forget:’ Thousands attend funeral fallen Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Longtime broadcaster joins race for Saanich council

Ian Jessop says he wants to bring support to Mayor Richard Atwell around council table

Smoky skies like a disappearing act for sights, monuments around B.C.

Haze expected to last the next several days, Environment Canada said

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

Most Read