Concluding a free trade agreement with Korea would be a significant achievement in Canada’s effort to forge stronger business ties with fast-growing economies in Asia. This has been a difficult negotiation for Canada, but I commend the government for its leadership in restarting talks.
Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy, with a market of $1.1 trillion. There are growth opportunities across many industries: agri-food, aerospace, infrastructure, energy, chemicals, forestry, and financial services—the list goes on. Reducing or eliminating trade and investment barriers here will boost exports and create new jobs. But more open trade with Korea would put Canada’s automotive sector under new pressure, and the government has a great responsibility to ensure their continued competitiveness. This agreement needs to ensure real market access for Canadian exports and be paired with strong enforcement measures and trade promotion support on-the-ground. Affected industries in Canada will need the appropriate time to adjust.
There is a new sense of urgency because of the ongoing implementation of similar deals between Korea and the United States and the European Union. During my visit to Korea last fall, I saw first-hand how Canadian companies were losing their footing in the market to competitors from other countries. Some were even making the difficult choice to shut down their marketing offices.
A deal with Korea would be Canada’s first in Asia and should add momentum to other negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and bilateral talks with Japan.