OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada must sign up to a proposed 12-nation Pacific trade pact, even though the country’s auto makers might not be happy with some of the conditions, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.
Trade ministers failed to clinch the Trans-Pacific Partnership at a meeting in late July amid disagreements over sectors such as autos and dairy.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was confident a deal could be finalised this year.
Canada and Mexico, both home to major auto plants, are angry that the United States wants to let Japan export cars to North America with substantial content from non-TPP nations. This, they fear, could make Canadian and Mexican autos too expensive.
Harper - predicting the talks would succeed in producing a trade deal - told a televised election campaign debate that Canada had no choice but to join the TPP to ensure access to fast-growing Asian markets.
“What I say to the auto sector in particular - I am not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in that - is we simply cannot afford as a country to have our auto sector shut out of global supply chains,” he said.
Harper added: “That would be a disaster. We’re going to make sure we get the best deal for that and all of our sectors.”
He gave no details as to what concessions the auto makers might have to make.
Representatives from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan would meet in San Francisco early next week to address disagreements over the auto sector.
Chief negotiators from TPP nations will meet in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sept. 26, and trade ministers are set to gather in the same city the following week.
Canada has also run into problems at the talks over demands from other nations that it cut protections for dairy farmers.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Ken Wills