Canada set to discuss all issues in Pacific talks

Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:48am EST
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By Ron Popeski

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A tariff structure that supports domestic farmers should not be a barrier to Canada's entry to a pan-Pacific trade pact, although all issues are up for negotiation, Canada's trade minister said on Wednesday.

Ed Fast, interviewed in Singapore at the end of a tour of Southeast Asia, said most of the nine countries working toward the conclusion of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal supported Canada's entry into the negotiations.

He declined to say which countries did not back the plans. News reports have suggested Australia and New Zealand are unhappy about Canada's supply management support program for poultry and egg producers, a network of marketing boards and quotas intended to keep markets stable and ensure farm incomes.

Some reports suggest U.S. support is not guaranteed.

"I wouldn't want to speculate on any of the current nine partners' positions on our entry into the TPP process other than to reaffirm that the large majority of those countries have articulated their support for Canada's participation," Fast said.

"We are actively engaged in working with our counterparts in the United States."

Fast said trade with Asia was a priority for Canada, which relies heavily on exports and where the government wants to diversify energy sales away from the United States and toward growing markets like China.

Canada and China signed a series of trade deals and completed negotiations on an investment protection pact when Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited China last week.   Continued...