Why we got into the TPP talks
US confirms no re-opening of parts already agreed to. Canadian analysts aren't worried.
Trade analysts are pointing to seven months of intense lobbying, movement on copyright legislation, and realization in the United States that Canada could be an ally at the Trans-Pacific Partnership table as some of the reasons why Canada was invited into the trade club.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on June 19 that the nine TPP member countries had invited Canada into the talks, while he was in Los Cabos, Mexico for the G20 summit. The announcement came one day after Mexico was asked to join.
Rudy Husny, Trade Minister Ed Fast's spokesperson, said in an email that Canada welcomed the support.
Meanwhile the Canadian government and the private sector have been highly active on the file since Mr. Harper announced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in November that Canada wanted to join.
John Weekes, who was Canada's chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement and is currently a senior business adviser at Bennett Jones LLP in Ottawa, said the government put a lot of effort into trying to get to the TPP table.
Scotty Greenwood, a senior adviser for the Washington-based Canadian American Business Council, said the group discussed Canada getting in to the TPP talks with Mr. Fast even before the APEC summit.
She said Mr. Fast indicated Canada's interest in the TPP and was "taking the temperature in Washington" about whether it would be an uphill battle for Canada.
"He had several issues on his mind, but what we chimed in on was the TPP and just talking to him about how to frame the issue in Congress in Washington in a way that would resonate with American policymakers," she said.
She said the council's message focused on why it was in the US's interest to have Canada at the table. It was a "nuanced and sophisticated" message that ultimately got through, she said.
Initially, the council worked behind the scenes, meeting with various US government officials and other business groups.
Before the G20 summit, the council went more public and started to put members of the Obama administration, like presidential adviser Michael Froman, on the spot.
"[We asked] what excuse do you have for not bringing Canada in?"
Canadian officials, both based in Ottawa and the US, did heavy lifting alongside business groups. Ms. Greenwood took note of the work of Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Doer.
"I think it was a very complex orchestra led by Ambassador Doer and some key folks in the government of Canada. But ultimately it was the private sector with US interests that were able to speak to the US government and indicate why this is in both our interests."
Mr. Fast kept busy as well, darting to the TPP member countries to meet with officials.
Reports surfaced a few days before Mr. Harper's announcement that his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had been sent to Washington to help garner support for Canada's bid. According to the government's online staff directory, more than 10 people including trade policy officers and deputy directors had been assigned to the TPP file before Canada was invited in.
Jean-Michel Laurin, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters's vice-president of global business policy, said his group had been lobbying for Canada's inclusion. Much of its attention was on the US, because it saw it as the country that would carry the most weight in the decision on Canada's entry.
CME staff and members went to Washington a few months ago to meet with USTR officials, and Conservative MP and chair of the House international trade committee Rob Merrifield has also made some trips, Mr. Laurin said.
He said through his group's lobbying, it wanted to show that it wasn't just the Canadian government that was making the TPP a priority.
"[We wanted to show] there was very strong support from all sectors of Canadian business, and that our government was acting on this because they were being pressured to do so by industry," Mr. Laurin said.
Ms. Greenwood said they often talked about how integrated the Canadian and American economies are.
Ultimately, some of these arguments probably made some headway with US officials, Mr. Weekes said.
A USTR spokesperson wrote in an email that Canada's participation in the TPP would expand the economic significance of the agreement.
"It will create significant new opportunities for US workers, manufacturers, service suppliers, farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and consumers," Carol Guthrie wrote.
Mr. Weekes said US officials probably realized that it would be useful to have Canada at the table, especially for dealing with issues like investment where Canadian and American interests are similar.
The US and other countries would probably like to negotiate other issues with Canada such as changes to investment rules on telecommunications or Canada's supply management system for dairy, poultry, and eggs, Mr. Weekes said.
"The Americans probably realized it wasn't realistic to pre-negotiate all the trade issues they had with Canada before they let us in the door...and they probably thought, 'Why not bring them in and we can start to do that.'"
Mr. Husny said that Canada was prepared to discuss all issues at the negotiating table.
Donald Campbell, former deputy foreign minister and deputy minister for international trade, and currently a senior strategy adviser at Davis LLP, also noted that reality likely set in within the US that the negotiations would take longer than expected.
Observers had previously pointed to American reluctance to let more countries into the negotiations because they saw it as complicating the process of having a deal by the end of this year.
The two trade analysts, along with Debra Steger, a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation and a professor with the University of Ottawa's law faculty, also said the passage of the Harper government's copyright legislation through the House of Commons played to Canada's advantage.
The bill passed third reading in the House on June 18, and is currently sitting at committee in the Senate.
Mr. Weekes said reform of Canadian copyright law has been a major ask from the United States for many years.
"I suspect that may have well been part of what went into the final sort of deal making and that it probably wasn't accidental that the House passed that legislation the night before we were let into the negotiations."
The US welcomed the moved.
"The US held extensive consultations with Canada on what level of ambition we were seeking in all of the TPP chapters, including on [intellectual property rights], and how that compared with current policy positions in Canada or in its recent trade agreements," said Ms. Guthrie.
Even so, Canada will probably continue to be pressured because the legislation does not go as far and the US would want it to go, Ms. Steger said.
She also said the TPP would give the US, Canada, and Mexico the chance to update certain parts of the NAFTA agreement.
In the days after Canada was invited into the talks, observers speculated about terms of entry for Canada.
"The current TPP countries have agreed, and the new countries understand, that we do not intend to reopen any issues that already have been agreed to by the current TPP participants," Ms. Guthrie wrote to Embassy.
But if any member is concerned about a particular issue, they will likely hold open that discussion until Canada and Mexico are part of the talks as well, Mr. Weekes said.
Canada and Mexico still have to wait at least three months before officially having a seat at the table as the Obama administration needs to go through a 90-day consultation period with the US Congress.
Mr. Weekes said it doesn't seem likely the TPP members have finalized many issues and he doesn't think there will be agreement on any difficult issues in the period leading up to Canada's entry.
"We're virtually, I think, equal partners," he said.