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ELECTION 2015: NDP, Tories battle over Pacific trade

NDP's Thomas Mulcair against Trans-Pacific Partnership, Liberal Justin Trudeau on fence about Conservative Ed Fast's deal

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair stepped up his attack on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the last days before the Oct. 19 federal election, rallying union support to oppose Canada’s biggest-ever trade agreement.

The NDP campaign emphasized support from the Canadian Union of Public Employees and health care unions, adding to vocal opposition from Unifor, the union representing auto workers. The NDP has described the TPP as a secret deal that could drive up drug costs and cost jobs by removing tariffs from imported vehicles and other products.

The TPP, agreed to in principle last week by 12 countries including Canada, the U.S., Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, provides only minimal foreign access to supply managed poultry, dairy and egg markets in B.C. and across the country.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast took a break from his Conservative re-election campaign in Abbotsford to conclude the TPP talks in Atlanta last week. Fast said it keeps the government’s promise to preserve supply management in farm products, by offering “modest” import access and paying farmers for any loss of revenue.

Over five years, the TPP would open to imports 3.25 per cent of Canada’s dairy production, 2.3 per cent for eggs, 2.1 per cent for chicken, two per cent for turkey and 1.5 per cent for broiler hatching eggs.

For beef and other farm products, the TPP gives Canada full access to the U.S., Australia and other competitors in the Pacific Rim, Fast said. The NDP’s opposition to trade deals goes back a long way.

“They opposed the Canada-US free trade agreement, they opposed NAFTA, they have voted in the House of Commons against our trade agreement with the European Union,” Fast said in an interview. “They voted against trade agreements with countries like Switzerland and Lichtenstein and Israel and Peru.”

Mulcair has repeatedly demanded that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau take a position on the TPP, and that the Conservatives release the full text of the agreement before the vote.

Fast said the legal text is not completed and requires consent of all 12 countries, which is unlikely before the election. Implementation of the TPP is expected to take about two years, as each government ratifies its terms.

B.C. International Trade Minister Teresa Wat praised the TPP deal, noting it phases out tariffs in Asian countries on B.C. salmon, halibut, herring, crab, geoduck, blueberries, fresh and frozen vegetables, pork and icewine.