Commentary: Free Trade & Canada – Next Stop, Japan
By David Worts, Executive Director, JAMA Canada
The tabling of the final text of the bilateral free trade agreement with South Korea earlier this
month has brought Canada another step closer to its first trade agreement in Asia. While this
will open up economic and trade opportunities, Canada has a unique opportunity to further
strengthen its economy by finalizing a comprehensive trade agreement with Japan.
Canada-Japan bilateral trade exceeds $20 billion, allowing Canada to enjoy a trade surplus of
about $1.4 billion. That two-way trade figure has remained fairly constant for the past six
years, but a joint study by the Canadian and Japanese governments concluded that an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the two countries would move it to a much higher level.
Specifically, the joint study noted that a Canada-Japan EPA could result in gains to Canada’s
gross domestic product of between $4.1 billion and $9.8 billion, while Japan could see GDP gains of between $4.8 billion and $5.3 billion.
With figures like that, it’s no surprise that a recent survey by the Asia Pacific Foundation of
Canada shows considerable support in Canada for a free trade agreement with Japan. According to the survey, 55 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a trade deal with Japan. Only trade deals with Australia and the European Union had higher levels of support.
Like the Canadians who participated in the survey, Japanese automakers in Canada are also strong supporters of a Canada-Japan EPA to further trade liberalization in the Asia Pacific region. Although two-thirds of the vehicles Japanese automakers sell in Canada are built in North America — a result of previous liberalized trade deals such as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA — one-third continue to be imported from Japan to meet Canadians’ wide range of transportation needs. Removing the import tariff on those vehicles will be critical to maintaining equitable treatment of an industry that has invested over $9 billion in Canada to
date and which employs 70,000 Canadians.
The Canadian government has rightly made trade liberalization a cornerstone of its strategy to
boost Canada’s economic prosperity. Free trade agreements and EPAs are an important means to bring positive results in the short to medium term while furthering the broader long-term goal of trade liberalization.
With multilateral trade talks bogged down, Canada — like many countries — is looking to bilateral and regional preferential trade negotiations to get things moving. A Canada-Japan free trade agreement must be the next priority.
Canadians recognize how important Japan is to Canada’s economic prosperity. They know that
concluding trade negotiations quickly is vital to maintaining competitiveness in the Canadian
market and strengthening the Canadian economy.
Negotiations on a Canada-Japan EPA have been underway since 2012 and are set to resume this summer with a sixth round of talks (from July 28 – July 31). With the recent developments in the Canada-South Korea trade agreement and the significant progress Canada and the EU have made in their Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, it’s time Canada completed its agreement with Japan so citizens and businesses in both countries can start enjoying the substantial economic benefits such a deal will bring.
This article was originally published on July 4, 2014 at iPolitics.ca