Canada is asking to join the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific trade talks, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said.
For months, Canadian business leaders have been urging Ottawa to sign on to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) negotiations, saying that country should not have been left out of the launch last May.
Joly announced Ottawa’s decision on IPEF after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa on Thursday.
She also announced that Canada would begin new talks with the United States, called the “Canada-United States Strategic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific,” to “further align our approaches” to the region. Canada is still developing a comprehensive diplomatic and economic strategy for the Indo-Pacific which will be unveiled later this year.
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Fourteen states participate in IPEF trade negotiations, including India, Australia, Japan and South Korea. China is not part of the talks.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized the IPEF as an effort to divide Asian countries and cause a decoupling of foreign economies from China.
Mr. Blinken, for his part, said on Thursday that the United States supports Canada’s joining the IPEF talks, but said the request would require the consent of the other members of the negotiations.
Canadian business leaders applauded Ms. Joly’s announcement. Goldy Hyder, president of the Business Council of Canada, said participating in the Pacific trade talks will “enhance Canada’s credibility in the region and strengthen our economic ties” with participating countries.
Alice Hansen, press secretary to International Trade Minister Mary Ng, said Ms Ng worked with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai to join IPEF.
This represents something of a reversal for Canada. In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downplayed Canada’s exclusion from the talks. At the time, he said Canada’s membership in another Pacific trade pact, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), means he doesn’t need to see more access in the region.
“Luckily Canada has a free trade agreement with the CPTPP and we have a free trade agreement with the United States, which has just been renewed with the new NAFTA, so it is not something that affects us directly,” Trudeau said in May.
The United States is not part of the Trans-Pacific Trade Pact because in 2017 then-President Donald Trump pulled the country out of negotiations. The Trans-Pacific Agreement was part of then-President Barack Obama’s strategy to counterbalance Chinese influence in Asia by enshrining US-style rules for trade and intellectual property protection in the region. . Ash Carter, then Secretary of Defense, said the TPP was as valuable as “another aircraft carrier” in terms of American influence in Asia.
The White House said the new IPEF talks are not about tariff relief on imports, but rather provide a way to address issues ranging from climate change to supply chain resilience and trade digital.
“The future of the 21st century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific – in our region,” US President Joe Biden said at a launch event in Tokyo in May. “We are writing the new rules.”
Mr Biden also said in May that he wanted IPEF to strengthen environmental, labor and other standards across Asia.
Two federal cabinet ministers spoke harshly to China. Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said last week in Washington that Canada wants “a decoupling, certainly from China, and I would say from other regimes around the world that don’t share the same values.” .
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada should end all reliance on authoritarian states like China for vital goods.
With files from Reuters and Associated Press