What the Trans-Pacific Partnership means for B.C.

Plus, Eldorado gets good news in Greece and UBC’s new life saver

Just the beginning
By now, you’ve likely seen the news: Following a five-day negotiation in Atlanta, the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade agreement between a dozen nations including Canada—has been signed, and it’s big news for B.C. (Although, each member state must still individually ratify their involvement, meaning it’s far from a done deal; federally, only the NDP oppose doing so.) If and when the trade agreement comes into effect, it would mean lower tariffs on exports between 12 Pacific Rim states, which combined account for 40 per cent of the world’s GDP (members include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam). 

Lowered trade barriers means the TPP is potentially great news for businesses that export—but a threat to those who would take a hit from international competition, which in Canada includes dairy, egg and poultry farmers. While not subsidized, supply management has kept prices in those sectors controlled and high (that’s why cheese costs so much in Canada), and the new deal will give “limited access” to these guarded industries. Which could mean cheaper cheese for the consumer, but many farmers expect to take a hit—and, indeed, Ottawa announced Monday that the government would pay out $4.3-billion over 15 years to impacted farmers, most of whom are in Ontario and Quebec.

As for B.C., the chart below shines some light on what currently we export to TPP counties—and thus the sort of businesses that likely stand to gain (read more here). The Vancouver Board of Trade also supports the deal in unambiguous terms: “The TPP is one of the most ambitious trade agreements in history, and as Canada’s Pacific Gateway, the deal promises to further deepen British Columbia’s trade ties in the dynamic and fast growing Asia-Pacific region,” said VBOT CEO Iain Black in a release Monday. “The TPP will further strengthen B.C.’s role in the global economy by reducing regulatory barriers on B.C. exports such as wood and forestry products, metals and minerals, and B.C. fruit and seafood.” (The provincial government, predictably happy, said pretty much the same thing Monday.) And, of course, most of these exports would go through Port Metro Vancouver, meaning B.C. plays a particularly crucial role as Canada’s self-appointed gateway to Asia.

The debate, however, may be only beginning here in Canada, writes Barrie McKenna for the Globe and Mail, arguing that while the TPP has many advantages—and “Canada can’t afford not to be there”—the Harper government has done a poor job educating Canadians on what the deal means. Which is too bad, because with an election two weeks out, it’s quickly become the latest political football.

Back to work (for now)
Eldorado Gold Corp.’s Greek mines can resume operations—or at least temporarily, until a final verdict is reached. The Vancouver miner had suspended its Halkidiki region mines and related operations following a disagreement with the Greek Energy Ministry over approvals. Eldorado had conducted technical tests in Finland to determine the viability of the Greek mines; the ministry later said the tests should have been conducted locally, at the Halkidiki site, forcing Eldorado to hit the brakes on its $1-billion project. Share prices shot up 10 per cent Friday following the latest news.

Against the flow
UBC researchers have invented a new way to save lives: the world’s first self-propolled particules able to travel against the flow of blood—and help it coagulate. The new discovery could be crucial in trauma care, especially where internal bleeding is present. “Bleeding is the number one killer of young people, and maternal death from postpartum hemorrhage can be as high as one in 50 births in low resource settings so these are extreme problems,” said UBC professor Christian Kastrup in a release.