OTTAWA - Canada has formally joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bloc and will be at the table for the next full round in December.
The invitation to join the club of now 11 Pacific nations was first announced in July, but all governments needed to ratify the inclusion.
The U.S. completed its 90-day Congressional consultation on Monday, the last hurdle in the process.
Canada, along with Mexico, has come late to talks that are already well underway, and will likely be expected to adopt decisions already reached by the other members — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
While that has raised issues among critics, trade lawyer Lawrence Herman of Cassels Brock says the situation is not as severe as some suppose.
"As a practical matter, Canada would probably have to accept any deals already done," he said.
"But the TPP has a long, long way to go and once Canada gets into the game in December we’ll have as much influence as any of the others in the remaining issues ... and there are many still on the table."
The talks, like other trade negotiations, have been conducted behind closed doors, although some of the sensitive issues for Canada will seem familiar to free trade watchers, including intellectual property and Canada's protectionist agricultural practices.
Trade Minister Ed Fast, who is travelling in the Middle East this week, said in a news release issued in Ottawa that joining the TPP would be good for the economy.
"Opening new markets and increasing Canadian exports to fast-growing markets throughout the Asia-Pacific region is a key part of our government’s plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity," he said.
The government is currently pursuing a host of big trade agreements, including free trade arrangements with the European Union, Japan and India.
The TPP market encompasses more than 658 million people and has a combined gross domestic product of about $20.5 trillion, larger than that of the U.S. and Europe.
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The 10 Best Countries To Do Business
See where Canada falls in the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2011/10/03/the-best-countries-for-business/" target="_hplink">Forbes rankings of the best countries in the world in which to do business</a>.
10. The United States
The world's largest economy just snuck into the top 10 on Forbes' list of best countries for business. The magazine cited the nation's heavy tax burden as one of the reasons why it did not place higher. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
9. The United Kingdom
A historic leader in global trade and finance, the United Kingdom placed a strong 9th place. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Oil boosts the economy of this Scandinavian powerhouse. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Iconic global brands such as Ikea, Ericsson and H & M call Sweden home. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)
A key global shipping hub, Singapore, is one of the best places in Asia to do business. (Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)
The third Scandinavian country on the list, Denmark fell from the top spot on Forbes' ranking. (Getty Images)
Despite being hit hard by the recent economic crisis, Ireland placed a respectable fourth on the list. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
3. Hong Kong
Home to the iconic Hang Seng index, Hong Kong's exposure to China and reliable institutions make it one of the world's best places for business. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
2. New Zealand
Punching above its weight is the southern nation of New Zealand. The country only has fewer than 4.5 million people but its the runner-up on Forbes' list. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)
The CN Tower looms over the Toronto Blue Jays and Detroit Tigers as the Rogers Centre's roof is open for the first time in the 2011 MLB baseball season in Toronto Saturday, May 7, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)