Co-written with Member of Parliament Terry Sheehan
A bilateral trade deal with Japan could mean billions of dollars for both the Canadian and Japanese economies. Given the uncertain future of trade agreements in both the Pacific region and in North America, now is the time to finalize the Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
As co-chairs of the Canada–Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group, a bilateral association, we have seen that Canada and Japan not only have complimentary trade policies, but that our industries and resources offer much to benefit our two countries. Japan requires a lot of metals, agriculture and forest products, as well as energy — exactly what Canada has to offer. Japan provides our economy with automobiles, machinery, and other technology; however, there is much more to our trade and investment relationship that could be further developed.
A 2012 joint study by the two governments prepared at the outset of negotiations for an economic partnership agreement (EPA) suggested that such an agreement would benefit both economies, with expected gross domestic product (GDP) gains between US$3.8-billion and US$9-billion for Canada and GDP gains of approximately US$5-billion for Japan.
Negotiations for the EPA have been on hold since 2014, when the Trans-Pacific Partnership took priority. The TPP has been seen as a key part of Japan’s plans to reinvigorate its economy through international trade.
We were in Japan days after the inauguration of United States President Donald Trump, when it became officially known that the United States would withdraw from the TPP. When we promoted the value of resuming bilateral trade talks between our countries, our counterparts from the Japanese legislature were also enthusiastic about increasing trade with Canada. However, the Japanese government has been holding on to the hope that the TPP can still be salvaged in some form.
It is still uncertain whether Japan will succeed in negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with the United States or in recreating the TPP with the remaining eleven members who have agreed to re-evaluate the possibility of a new deal without the Americans.
Because of the current climate of uncertainty regarding free trade agreements, we believe that Canada must diversify its trading partnerships. We can find common ground with countries like Japan which are seeking freer trade, not greater protectionism.
Until there is more certainty with regard to the future of multilateral trade in the Pacific region, the EPA is a step forward that will help promote and bolster both Canada and Japan’s broader trade agendas. An enhanced trading relationship between Canada and Japan will demonstrate the value of economic cooperation due to the benefits of increased access to goods and services, growth in two-way investments, and GDP gains. An agreement with Japan could set a positive example and encourage further economic cooperation between Canada and other important Asian markets.
A Canada-Japan trade agreement could happen quickly, without having to abandon hopes for further trade liberalization in the region. After seven rounds of negotiations for the EPA, much of the hard work has already been done in laying its foundations.
The Canadian government has already indicated it is willing to resume negotiations with Japan. Demonstrating to the Japanese government that a bilateral trade agreement does not need to stall the impetus for a multilateral trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region could help get talks going again. Should a multilateral trade deal emerge from the TPP talks – which could still be years away — our two countries will have benefited from taking advantage of the present opportunity for creating closer economic ties.
Our parliamentary association is actively engaged in promoting and enhancing Canadian-Japanese cooperation and Canada’s interests in Japan. Opening up our markets to increase trade with Japan should make this cooperation easier, generate greater economic prosperity, and bring our two countries closer.
As two very eager supporters of Canada’s special relationship with Japan, we encourage the Canadian and Japanese governments to return to the negotiation table and make a deal.
Paul Massicotte is a senator representing Quebec’s Lanaudière region and sits on the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. Terry Sheehan is the MP for Sault Ste. Marie and sits on the House of Commons’ Industry, Science and Technology Committee. They are co-chairs of the Canada-Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group.
This article appeared in the June 1, 2017 edition of the Hill Times.