It’s not clear whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to Seoul to actually sign a free trade agreement with South Korea or if it’s just another grip-and-grin photo-op to announce an as-yet-unfinalized deal:
Harper said on his 24 Seven webcast that this would be Canada’s first trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It adds, obviously, to the important deals we have in the Americas and in Europe now. And it’s really given the Canadian economy as good, if not better, free-trade access than virtually every major developed economy,” he said.
Harper added that South Korea is “a relatively open economy, a relatively, very progressive economy and advanced democracy, and it has trade linkages all through Asia itself.” He said it’s “probably the best gateway you can get into long-term trade agreement access into the Asia-Pacific region.”
NDP trade critic Don Davies said growing trade with South Korea and Asia in general is a good thing. But he was skeptical that the week’s coming ceremonies would amount to much more of a repeat of Brussels.
“Are they going to go just to shake hands, have a photo-op and sign an agreement-in-principle without the actual details or text to be released?”
Davies again assailed the government for a total lack of transparency, and questioned whether the deal would be able to protect jobs in Canada’s auto sector.
“In trade deals, it’s details that matter,” he said.
“The Conservatives have the least transparent trade policy probably in the developed world. They are closed, they are secretive and they don’t involve a lot of stakeholders; they don’t involve the opposition.”
The deal would mark progress toward expanding trade with Asia, a major economic priority of the Harper government. Coming on the heels of the Canada-EU pact, it would allow Prime Minister Stephen Harper to trumpet his first significant free-trade deal in Asia, and give impetus to other negotiations, particularly with Japan.