Agricultural producer groups applaud the Liberal government’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy and hope it will lead to more and better free trade agreements.
The strategy, announced Sunday in Vancouver, includes commitments to increase military spending and forge closer ties with countries like India.
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The $2.3 billion plan includes a pledge to spend $244.1 million to improve trade between Canada and countries in the region.
Although no specific targets or benchmarks are included in the strategy and questions remain about how effectively the funds will be spent, the increased attention to the region is being celebrated by agricultural groups in Canada.
Todd Lewis, a Saskatchewan farmer and vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, says it’s “good news for Canadian agriculture.”
“This is another signal that the Government of Canada is serious about trying to establish both trade agreements and trade relationships,” he said. “It’s something that we hope will grow and continue to be successful.”
Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy aims for new trade relations, as well as expanding the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, by adding new members.
The pact, which already includes heavyweights like Australia, Japan and Mexico, went into effect four years ago. The United Kingdom, the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and China have applied for membership.
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Leif Carlson, director of market intelligence and trade policy for Grains Canada, said the Indo-Pacific strategy should be viewed from a long-term perspective as a way to deepen these trading relationships.
“I hope the Indo-Pacific strategy is going to be complementary to the CPTPP,” he said.
Some agricultural producers say the deal has fallen short of expectations and implementation has been slow.
“Some of these trade deals may not be what they thought they would be, or what we hoped they would be, and a little slow to get off the ground,” Lewis said.
Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said he hopes the strategy “builds on the CPTPP” and builds momentum for an eventual agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. East, known as ASEAN.
Canada has been trying to strike a trade deal with ASEAN, a bloc of 10 Southeast Asian countries, since 2017.
After public consultation on a potential deal in 2018, the two sides agreed to continue negotiations in 2021, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing funding to help ASEAN countries participate in trade deal negotiations during a summit held by the bloc earlier this month. .
Canada is also committed to negotiating more bilateral agreements in the region, including with India and ASEAN member Indonesia.
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