Canada is hosting a round of exploratory negotiations on the future of the Trans Pacific Partnership after the U.S. bowed out.
Senior trade officials from every remaining signatory country will convene the so-called TPP-minus-one talks in Toronto on Tuesday and Wednesday. While ministers won’t attend, the event is expected to set the stage for an upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit of trade ministers in Vietnam.
This week’s talks are also the latest sign of Canada looking to pivot in part away from its biggest trading partner -- coming amid escalating disputes with President Donald Trump’s administration over the North American Free Trade Agreement, softwood lumber and the dairy sector. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government responded to U.S. lumber duties last week by saying it would in turn try to sell more of its product to Asia.
Canada bills itself as “the bridge between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and we’re happy to host them,” International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters in Ottawa on Monday. “It shows that Canada is front and center when it comes to trade in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The government has left the door open to pursuing a bilateral trade deal with Japan -- the biggest economy remaining in the TPP -- and Trudeau said in a Bloomberg interview last month that Canada seems to be in a “post-TPP world.”
Champagne said he spoke recently with his Japanese counterpart, declining to detail the talks. He added he was “very happy that talks are progressing” on what’s next for TPP nations, but remained noncommittal on whether the pact can be salvaged.
“We’re going to see. That’s why we’re meeting next in Vietnam,” he said. “What’s important now is to look at all options.”