Election 2015: Northwest candidates on Trans-Pacific Partnership

Northwest federal candidates respond to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

On Monday, Canada’s 78-day election campaign comes to an end. In the final days leading up to the final vote, there have been plenty of issues for the candidates in Skeena-Bulkley Valley to chew on.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was finalized last week, but has to be ratified by the new Parliament to go into effect. The 12 Pacific nations involved in the deal make up 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

The deal would have a large impact on industry in the Northwest. According to the federal government, $7.9 billion was the average annual value of B.C.’s exports of metals and minerals to TPP countries from 2012 to 2014.

Tariffs on lumber exports to Australia and Brunei would be eliminated immediately, with exports to Japan becoming tariff-free within 15 years.

But that deal does not solve the problem of the expired softwood lumber agreement, which ended Monday. It also does not end log export restrictions on B.C.

“Obviously we would like to see this agreement move forward, and I think industry on both sides of the border would, but for reasons that were not entirely clear, the American administration hasn’t seen it that way,” Harper said in an interview with Black Press.

“In terms of forestry, what the TPP does do is provide new tariff-free access to many Asian countries, including enhanced access to the Japanese market.”

Restrictions on log exports from B.C. are also not eased by the TPP, which includes Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia.

B.C.’s control over Crown land log prices has been an irritant with the U.S. and Japan, while private and aboriginal land log producers are restricted by federal rules.

“B.C. was able to ensure that both provincial and federal log export controls will not change as a result of the TPP, despite pressure from Japan to eliminate them,” B.C. International Trade Minister Teresa Wat said in a statement. “B.C.’s objectives for the forestry sector during the TPP negotiations were to gain market access for forestry products to important TPP markets … while maintaining existing log export controls.”

Premier Christy Clark said this week her first call to Ottawa after the election will be about continuing the U.S. softwood lumber talks. Harper expressed confidence that despite the history of U.S. legal and trade actions over the years, the existing deal can be extended.

NDP Skeena-Bulkley Valley incumbent candidate Nathan Cullen said he did not like how the trade deal was made.

“Anybody can sign any deal, the question is the deal good for the country. To sign such a massive deal and keep it entirely secret doesn’t speak to their confidence about what’s in it,” said Cullen.

A $4.3-billion subsidy over 15 years to protect current dairy, chicken and egg farm revenues has been promised. TPP countries would get duty-free access to 3.25 per cent of Canada’s dairy and 2.1 per cent of the poultry markets.

“If it was so great a deal, why wouldn’t they release every detail in it? But instead they’ve just rolled out compensation which at least admits there’s going to be a lot of job losses in certain sectors,” said Cullen, who also did not like the deal being signed during an election.

Liberal candidate Brad Layton also called the deal secretive, but said he could not say he supported it or not until he saw the full text. He also said compensation hints at problems.

“One thing that I’m adamant about is we have to protect our supply system, our agriculture and food sources. That shouldn’t be traded away for a number of reasons: I like my milk without hormones in it is one … And we’ve been really trying to promote local food sources. Well, if we open up our agriculture even more, we’re starting to get farther away from local,” said Layton.

With files from Tom Fletcher

Conservative candidate Tyler Nesbitt emailed a response on the topic. He did not return requests for an interview on the topic.

Here is the emailed statement on the TPP:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will protect and create Northwest jobs, and grow every sector of our economy by giving Canadian businesses access to some of the most dynamic markets in the world. That’s why so many groups and organizations have come out in support of this deal including the Coast Forest Products Association, BC Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Association of Seafood Producers, the Aluminum Association of Canada, Mining Association of Canada, British Columbia Wild Seafood Processors, British Columbia Seafood Alliance. We will not make our manufacturers more competitive by increasing taxes on their businesses and on their workers as proposed by the NDP.

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