02/01/2016 01:02 EST | Updated 02/01/2017 05:12 EST

An Open Letter To Canadians On The Trans-Pacific Partnership

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As Canada's newly appointed minister of international trade, I have spent the last two months talking to Canadians about our potential participation in the Trans‑Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

After attending public town halls, participating in over 70 meetings and round tables, and receiving feedback from thousands of Canadians who have written to me, it is clear that many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns.

Many Canadians still have not made up their minds and many more still have questions. That is why our consultations with the provinces, municipal officials, students, labour leaders and members, business representatives, academic experts and others are just the beginning of the examination needed to fully understand the TPP's impact.

"Our government's guiding principle is that strengthening Canada's trade performance is one of the ways we will work to strengthen our middle class and support high‑wage jobs."

With the return of Parliament, I will work with my colleagues from all parties to conduct a full and open debate in Parliament, a commitment we made in October's election. Further, I have written to the government and opposition House leaders as well as the chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to convey my strong belief in the merits of a robust and transparent examination of the TPP.

In particular, this should include extensive, non‑partisan consideration, analysis and testimony from all regions, sectors and backgrounds. Most importantly, this process will be fully public.

For Parliament to fully evaluate the merits of the TPP and for consultations to continue, Canada needs to stay at the table with the other TPP countries. That means when the 11 other countries convene to sign the agreement, Canada will attend as well. Not attending would mean withdrawing from the TPP altogether, even before Canadians have had an opportunity to fully debate its implications.

Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door.

Signing does not equal ratifying. Only a majority vote in our Parliament can allow the agreement to take force. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made.

All other countries will follow the same process, and each has up to two years to consider ratification before making a final determination. In addition, it is important to note that signing next week preserves Canada's status as a potential full partner in the agreement, with all of the rights and powers that go with it.

Throughout this process, our government's guiding principle is that strengthening Canada's trade performance is one of the ways we will work to strengthen our middle class and support high‑wage jobs.

Canada is a trading nation. As our government has made clear, we want to expand economic opportunities for all Canadians, and trade with our Asia‑Pacific partners is key to making that happen.

These are goals I am confident we all share -- and I look forward to continuing our dialogue as we focus on enhancing opportunity and prosperity for all Canadians.

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.

For more information on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, click here.

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In Pictures: Chrystia Freeland