A Modern Agreement
The Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership has been ratified by six of the 11 signatory countries – Canada, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore. On Dec. 30, 2018, the CPTPP went into effect, eliminating the vast majority of tariffs on imports amongst those nations who have ratified the agreement.
The CPTPP has the potential to have profound implications on Canadian trade and how Canadian businesses source and sell their wares abroad. The new trade deal will offer unprecedented access to burgeoning markets in Asia and South America, and sets out to eliminate 99% of tariffs.
In addition to goods, the agreement liberalizes trade in service, a critical development for Canada whose GDP relies heavily on a service sector that would benefit significantly from access to government procurement and financial service opportunities abroad.
The agreement also solidifies Canada’s international trading relationship by complementing existing trade deals, such as NAFTA and the recently signed Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a free trade agreement between 11 nations that, if ratified by any six of those nations, will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of goods traded between the participating nations. Canada is expected to ratify the CPTPP in March 2019.
Canada was an anticipated signatory of the agreement’s initial incarnation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal that initially involved four nations, but later expanded to 12, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam.
Negotiations around the TPP were fraught with controversy over a number of critical issues, including the investor-state dispute system (ISDS), the impact of low-cost labour in Southeast Asia on developed markets and impact of changes to intellectual property rights on key industries, such as health care and pharma.
Despite the numerous points of contention, the 12-nation pact was all but ready for ratification in late 2016. However, the new U.S. administration, led by President Donald Trump, withdrew the country’s participation from the agreement on its third day in office. Many believed America’s withdrawal would be too large an economic void for the remaining members to carry on without U.S. participation.
From TPP to CPTPP
After the U.S. withdrawal, the TPP appeared to be defunct, but in the summer of 2017 the remaining 11 members chose to revisit the possibility of proceeding with a revamped Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP. The decision was spurred on by a mutual desire to foster freer trade between nations and continents, a sentiment that became particularly critical in the face of what seemed to be a rising tide of global protectionism.
Recent research shows the CPTPP would still be advantageous to its signatory states, and Canada in particular, even without U.S. participation. A recent study by the Canwest Foundation, a think tank focusing on issues specific to western Canada, revealed CPTPP would likely generate an increase of 2.43% in exports among CPTPP nations. It would also raise real GDP across the trade bloc by generating an estimated $22 billion in economic activity by 2035.
Interestingly, the study reveals Canada would fare better under a CPTPP than the original TPP12 with an increase in economic activity of $3.4 billion versus $2.8 billion. The study notes that with the exception of the dairy sector, Canada’s agricultural sector stands to gain the most from CPTPP while the dairy sector will be adversely affected by competition from New Zealand and textiles and apparel slightly affected by increased competition from Southeast Asia.
Between the CPTPP and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the provisionally applied free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, Canadian businesses will have access to the vast majority of the world’s most critical trade markets and, perhaps most importantly, free trade with nations that have become pivotal links in global supply chains (e.g. Singapore, Vietnam, etc.).
Benefits to Canadian Business
Canadian industries stand to gain substantially from Canada’s participation in CPTPP. Canada currently has an export disadvantage in bilateral trade among member nations with which it does not currently hold a free trade agreement (seven out of 11 countries). Those countries typically have much higher tariffs for Canadian goods entering their shores than Canada has for the goods imported into Canada from CPTPP nations.
The removal of tariffs would create a level playing field and give far freer access to Canadian industries looking for export opportunities in CPTPP markets, particularly those in Asia. It is estimated CPTPP would save $428 million in tariffs each year, mostly from trade with Japan, Vietnam and Australia. It is further estimated the CPTPP would increase imports by $3.6 billion.
Canada’s beef, poultry and pork industries would stand to gain substantially from market access to Japan as would producers of machinery who would be able to fill heightened demand for their wares in Australia and Malaysia.
The NAFTA Factor
The outcome of the ongoing NAFTA negotiations, and particularly the regional value content requirements on autos, will have some effect on how Canada’s auto sector chooses to use the CPTPP. The CPTPP provides Canada’s auto sector with the ability to import critical auto components from Japan, such as touch screens and other modern components, in a more cost-effective, tariff-free manner. But there will be a downside for Canada’s auto parts sector. The CPTPP’s low content requirement of 45% for finished vehicles and 30-45% for automotive parts means Canadian-based auto makers will be more inclined to purchase a higher volume of auto parts from low-cost locations via the CPTPP, rather than from Canadian or U.S. auto parts makers. A drop in the purchase of auto parts from U.S. parts makers would exacerbate the trade imbalance between the U.S. and Canada in a sector that was at the heart of the NAFTA negotiations.
The USMCA (the agreement set to replace NAFTA, but not yet ratified) requires regional content value of 75% for autos. Canadian based auto makers and auto parts makers will have to severely limit the volume of auto content they source from Japan or other CPTPP countries or risk being unable to take advantage of the cost efficiency associated with NAFTA.
While most parties agreed on the critical aspects of the CPTPP, certain bones of contention remained.
The removal of intellectual property protections that were introduced and insisted on by the U.S. had been the primary objective in the early stages of the CPTPP’s negotiations. The original TPP agreement allowed for lengthier patent terms for pharmaceuticals, a cause for concern among health advocates who noted the changes could delay the availability of more affordable generic drugs, which could make some drugs financially inaccessible to those who need them urgently and/or place greater financial burden on Canada’s already over-burdened health-care system.
Supply management has also been a very thorny issue for Canadian negotiators. Canada’s dairy industry was very unhappy that its government had conceded additional dairy imports in the CETA agreement and are equally upset about additional concessions related to dairy imports in the CPTPP. This will be further exacerbated by the additional access being given to the US to the Canadian dairy market as part of the USMCA.
Similar to its NAFTA negotiating position, Canada’s government sought out progressive provisions around gender equality, environmental protections and labour rights in the CPTPP.
Signing and Ratifying the CPTPP
Canada signed onto the CPTPP in principle on March 8, 2018 and ratified it on October 25, 2018. However, the agreement still needs to be ratified by five of the CPTPP member states.
For businesses in Canada, the combined impact of joining the CPTPP, as well as the CETA agreement with Europe cannot be overstated. For many businesses, such agreements open the doors to enormous markets of opportunity with limited competition from other developed nations. It also serves to break dependency on the U.S. market, which has shown recently a desire to pull away from open borders with Canada vis-à-vis anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Canadian lumber imports, as well as the imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Supporting our customers’ needs
Livingston will continue to monitor the progress of developments regarding the ratification of the CPTPP and will continue to provide updates.
If you have any immediate questions please contact 1-800-837-1063.