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Why Canada raced to get in on the CPTPP trade deal

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The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-country Asia-Pacific trade agreement revived after being abandoned by the Americans, takes effect today.

Agrifood exporters and consumers shopping for Japanese cars could benefit right away. But Canada’s greater goals for this agreement are strategic.

“Right now, things are a bit sensitive with the United States,” said Brian Innes, the president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the umbrella group representing most Canadian food producers — grain and livestock farmers in particular — who rely on sales to international markets.

“Secure access, stable access to the Asia-Pacific markets is really important to farmers right now.”

The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership made the reworked CPTPP a far better deal for Canada.

Originally, Canada needed to be in the TPP to avoid falling behind its closest competitors. When the remaining economies — including Japan, a large, developed market where Canada couldn’t land a bilateral trade deal — stuck together and implemented the agreement, Canadians got a head start over the Americans.

Not all 11 countries have ratified yet. But six did, in time for it to take effect before the end of 2018: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore. Vietnam ratified a few weeks later, so the CPTPP kicks in there early in the new year.

Some tariffs have now been lifted, or have started to phase out. More tariff cuts are set for early in 2019, improving price calculations for a range of businesses. But in Canada, the biggest winners are export-oriented farmers.

American farmers have noticed, and they aren’t happy about the new foothold Canadian farmers are about to get. 

A future U.S. administration may reconsider and negotiate re-entry. In the meantime, it’s time for Canadians to work on selling in markets they’ve chased for decades, Innes said.

Chief among them is Japan, a highly-protectionist agrifood market. Beef tariffs there, for example, were 39 per cent. They aren’t going away completely, but they will slowly ramp down.

Canola oil will be free of tariffs in five years.

“Right now we can ship a lot of unprocessed, raw seed into Japan, but the tariffs on canola oil prevent us from value-adding and shipping canola oil to Japan,” Innes said. “It’s really amazing that it’s finally going to happen.”

Canada is already a leading pork exporter. Canadian pork may now be more affordable than comparable U.S. imports in Japan, thanks to the tariff cuts in the CPTPP.

As processed food tariffs lift in Vietnam, French fries from Atlantic Canada also get cheaper. The list goes on.

“Right now we’re shipping eight billion dollars of exports to CPTPP countries and we think we’ll see that grow by 25 per cent once these tariff cuts are implemented,” Innes said.

Two new shipping terminals are being built in Vancouver, he said — the first new ones in decades. 

Automotive industry sticking to new NAFTA

“The Canadian government wanted (the CPTPP) on the books during the NAFTA process to demonstrate to them that we can make a deal without them,” said Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association.

But the CPTPP doesn’t do much for Ontario’s automotive industry. When the U.S. was part of the TPP (along with Mexico, which remains in the deal), this agreement superseded the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

But when the Americans left, there was little prospect of Canada and Mexico overhauling their highly-integrated supply chains to comply with rules different from what the Americans wanted, and recently insisted on, for NAFTA 2.0

Canada’s automotive exports go south, not west.

The reworked CPTPP is more of a bullet dodged for Volpe’s industry: the original TPP didn’t require a majority of car components to be sourced and assembled in North America, which held open the door for more Asian parts. NAFTA 2.0 works to close it.

“The USMCA [Trump’s preferred name for the revised NAFTA] all but cauterizes any wounds, assuming ratification and passage, that we would have endured because of the terms of the TPP,” Volpe said.

If anything, the U.S. wants to bring the Japanese under the umbrella of the new NAFTA rules to frustrate China’s growth. The automotive chapter could be overhauled if a future White House negotiates re-entry into the CPTPP.

But there is one automotive outcome worth watching: Canadian consumers eyeing Japanese models not currently assembled in North America might be able to negotiate a better price with their dealerships soon, as the current 6.1 per cent tariff on Japanese imports begins to phase out over the next four years.

When Canada’s free trade deal with South Korea made some Korean models cheaper, dealerships offered promotional pricing in celebration.

(Cambridge Hyundai Online Advertisement)

But if you’re not currently shopping for a Mitsubishi, what’s changing for you?

“Absolutely nothing,” said Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation, who has studied the benefits of the TPP for Canada for months.

Service industries look for growth

The benefits from a deal like this — equivalent to another NAFTA, Dade said, in long-term potential — take years to materialize. “And they don’t often materialize directly into things like lower prices,” he said.

Instead, research suggests firms reinvest in their products, services and employees.

As CPTPP takes hold, e-commerce and expedited shipping and customs clearance get simpler, with more markets using the same rules. Cheaper intermediate suppliers become available.

Professional credentials recognition for architects and engineers boosts the service industries needed by countries like Vietnam as they develop new infrastructure. And emerging middle-class populations in Asia are starting to purchase things like insurance, a globally-competitive industry in Canada.

In global service industries, people need to be able to cross borders for work.

“Good luck trying to get a Malaysian into the U.S. for three months to actually work in an office,” Dade said. With the CPTPP, “we’ve got that advantage over the Americans for the entire Pacific Rim.”

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the early days of his presidency. But a future president may decide to re-negotiate an American re-entry, especially if the deal succeeds in its goal of providing an alternative to China’s economic dominance in the region. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“The bigger companies, yes, are ready,” said Mark Agnew, the director of international policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “The gap,” he added, “is for small and medium-sized businesses” — they often lack the time, resources and expertise to figure out how to compete in Asia.

Sometimes it’s just easier to focus on English-speaking customers in North America, where the rules are familiar.

“It takes a little while to … start to notice benefits from any trade agreement,” said Meredith Lilly, a former adviser in Stephen Harper’s office when the original TPP was negotiated by the previous Conservative government. “The government can set the table, but others need to take it up.”

“This was largely a defensive deal for Canada,” she said — a way into a large trading bloc that Canada needed to join so customers and suppliers didn’t slip away.

1.5 billion now in ‘free trade zone’

Asian imports to Canada, like textiles or electronics, already had low or no tariffs. Clothing from Vietnam won’t significantly drop in price now, for example.

These new trading relationships have “longer term, more nebulous gains,” Lilly said. But as more and more countries join — Colombia, Thailand, South Korea and even a post-Brexit United Kingdom are interested — the deal’s higher labour, environmental and intellectual property standards could become the regional norm, something which is in Canada’s interests.

There aren’t many hot economies these days. But Vietnam’s one of them. 

Brian Kingston of the Business Council of Canada sees a sound, long-term strategy in trying to get Canada in there early.

Vietnam’s “not quite on par with what China’s achieved,” he said, “but you can see them following that path” of growing and developing very quickly.

“In 10 to 15 years from now, this could become a very valuable market.”

The CPTPP also includes investor protections, making the region more accessible for businesses that saw potential but couldn’t take the risks.

“We’re way better off and way more competitive on the 30th of December than we would be on Dec. 29,” International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr told CBC News on Parliament Hill before leaving for the holiday break.

“This is a market of 500 million consumers that will be in addition to the 500 million through the European trade agreement and the nearly 500 million with the (revised NAFTA), so 1.5 billion consumers (are now) in Canada’s free trade zone.”

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Real Estate

5 ways to reduce your mortgage amortization

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Since the pandemic hit, a lot of Canadians have been affected financially and if you’re on a mortgage, reducing your amortization period can be of great help.

A mortgage amortization period is the amount of time it would take a homeowner to completely pay off their mortgage. The amortization is typically an estimate based on what the interest rate for your current term is. Calculating your amortization is done easily using a loan amortization calculator which shows you the different payment schedules within your amortization period.

 In Canada, if you made a down payment that is less than the recommended 20 per cent of the total cost of your home, then the longest amortization period you’re allowed to have is 25 years. The mortgage amortization period not only affects the length of time it would take to completely repay the loan, but also the amount of interest paid over the lifecycle of the mortgage.

Typically, longer amortization periods involve making smaller monthly payments and having a much higher total interest cost over the duration of the mortgage. While on the other hand, shorter amortization periods entails making larger monthly payments and having lower total interest costs.

It’s the dream of every homeowner to become mortgage-free. A general rule of thumb would be to try and keep your monthly mortgage costs as low as possible—preferably below 30 per cent of your monthly income. Over time, you may become more financially stable by either getting a tax return, a bonus or an additional source of income and want to channel that towards your principal.

There are several ways to keep your monthly mortgage payments low and reduce your amortization. Here are a few ways to achieve that goal:

1. Make a larger down payment

Once you’ve decided to buy a home, always consider putting asides some significant amount of money that would act as a down payment to reduce your monthly mortgage. While the recommended amount to put aside as a down payment is 20 per cent,  if you aren’t in a hurry to purchase the property or are more financial buoyant, you can even pay more.

Essentially, the larger your down payment, the lower your mortgage would be as it means you’re borrowing less money from your lender. However, if you pay at least 20 per cent upfront, there would be no need for you to cover the additional cost of private mortgage insurance which would save you some money.

2. Make bi-weekly payments

Most homeowners make monthly payments which amount to 12 payments every year. But if your bank or lender offers the option of accelerated bi-weekly payment, you will be making an equivalent of one more payment annually. Doing this will further reduce your amortization period by allowing you to pay off your mortgage much faster.

3. Have a fixed renewal payment

It is normal for lenders to offer discounts on interest rate during your amortization period. However, as you continuously renew your mortgage at a lower rate, always keep a fixed repayment sum.

Rather than just making lower payments, you can keep your payments static, since the more money applied to your principal, the faster you can clear your mortgage.

4. Increase your payment amount

Many mortgages give homeowners the option to increase their payment amount at least once a year. Now, this is very ideal for those who have the financial capacity to do so because the extra money would be added to your principal.

Irrespective of how small the increase might be, in the long run, it would make a huge difference. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment is about $2,752 per month. It would be in your best interest to round it up to $2,800 every month. That way, you are much closer to reducing your mortgage amortization period.

5. Leverage on prepayment privileges

The ability for homeowners to make any form of prepayment solely depends on what mortgage features are provided by their lender.

With an open mortgage, you can easily make additional payments at any given time. However, if you have a closed mortgage—which makes up the larger percentage of existing mortgages—you will need to check if you have the option of prepayments which would allow you to make extra lump sum payments.

Additionally, there may also be the option to make extra lump sum payments at the end of your existing mortgage term before its time for renewal.

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Real Estate

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: What you need to know

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Your home is likely the biggest asset you’ll ever own. So how can you protect it in case something were to happen to you? To start, homeowners have a few options to choose from. You can either:

  • ensure you have mortgage protection with a life insurance policy from an insurance company or
  • get mortgage insurance from a bank or mortgage lender.

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: How do they each work?  

The first thing to know is that life insurance can be a great way to make sure you and your family have mortgage protection.

The money from a life insurance policy usually goes right into the hands of your beneficiaries – not the bank or mortgage lender. Your beneficiaries are whoever you choose to receive the benefit or money from your policy after you die.

Life insurance policies, like term life insurance, come with a death benefit. A death benefit is the amount of money given to your beneficiaries after you die. The exact amount they’ll receive depends on the policy you buy.

With term life insurance, you’re covered for a set period, such as 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The premium – that’s the monthly or annual fee you pay for insurance – is usually low for the first term.

If you die while you’re coved by your life insurance policy, your beneficiaries will receive a tax-free death benefit. They can then use this money to help pay off the mortgage or for any other reason. So not only is your mortgage protected, but your family will also have funds to cover other expenses that they relied on you to pay.

Mortgage insurance works by paying off the outstanding principal balance of your mortgage, up to a certain amount, if you die.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes directly to the bank or lender to pay off the mortgage – and that’s it. There’s no extra money to cover other expenses, and you don’t get to leave any cash behind to your beneficiaries.

What’s the difference between mortgage insurance and life insurance?

The main difference is that mortgage insurance covers only your outstanding mortgage balance. And, that money goes directly to the bank or mortgage lender, not your beneficiary. This means that there’s no cash, payout or benefit given to your beneficiary. 

With life insurance, however, you get mortgage protection and more. Here’s how it works: every life insurance policy provides a tax-free amount of money (the death benefit) to the beneficiary. The payment can cover more than just the mortgage. The beneficiary may then use the money for any purpose. For example, apart from paying off the mortgage, they can also use the funds from the death benefit to cover:

  • any of your remaining debts,
  • the cost of child care,
  • funeral costs,
  • the cost of child care, and
  • any other living expenses. 

But before you decide between life insurance and mortgage insurance, here are some other important differences to keep in mind:

Who gets the money?

With life insurance, the money goes to whomever you name as your beneficiary.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes entirely to the bank.

Can you move your policy?

With life insurance, your policy stays with you even if you transfer your mortgage to another company. There’s no need to re-apply or prove your health is good enough to be insured.

With mortgage insurance, however, your policy doesn’t automatically move with you if you change mortgage providers. If you move your mortgage to another bank, you’ll have to prove that your health is still good.

Which offers more flexibility, life insurance or mortgage insurance?

With life insurance, your beneficiaries have the flexibility to cover the mortgage balance and more after you die. As the policy owner, you can choose how much insurance coverage you want and how long you need it. And, the coverage doesn’t decline unless you want it to.

With mortgage insurance through a bank, you don’t have the flexibility to change your coverage. In this case, you’re only protecting the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

Do you need a medical exam to qualify? 

With a term life insurance policy from Sun Life, you may have to answer some medical questions or take a medical exam before you’re approved for coverage. Once you’re approved, Sun Life won’t ask for any additional medical information later on.

With mortgage insurance, a bank or mortgage lender may ask some medical questions when you apply. However, if you make a claim after you’re approved, your bank may ask for additional medical information.* At that point, they may discover some conditions that disqualify you from receiving payment on a claim.

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Real Estate

5 common mistakes Canadians make with their mortgages

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This article was created by MoneyWise. Postmedia and MoneyWise may earn an affiliate commission through links on this page.

Since COVID-19 dragged interest rates to historic lows last year, Canadians have been diving into the real estate market with unprecedented verve.

During a time of extraordinary financial disruption, more than 551,000 properties sold last year — a new annual record, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Those sales provided a desperately needed dose of oxygen for the country’s gasping economy.

Given the slew of new mortgages taken out in 2020, there were bound to be slip-ups. So, MoneyWise asked four of the country’s sharpest mortgage minds to share what they feel are the mistakes Canadians most frequently make when securing a home loan.

Mistake 1: Not having your documents ready

One of your mortgage broker’s primary functions is to provide lenders with paperwork confirming your income, assets, source of down payment and overall reliability as a borrower. Without complete and accurate documentation, no reputable lender will be able to process your loan.

But “borrowers often don’t have these documents on hand,” says John Vo of Spicer Vo Mortgages in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “And even when they do provide these documents, they may not be the correct documentation required.”

Some of the most frequent mistakes Vo sees when borrowers send in their paperwork include:

  • Not including a name or other relevant details on key pieces of information.
  • Providing old bank or pay statements instead of those dated within the last 30 days.
  • Sending only a partial document package. If a lender asks for six pages to support your loan, don’t send two. If you’re asked for four months’ worth of bank statements, don’t provide only one.
  • Thinking low-quality or blurry files sent by email or text will be good enough. Lenders need to be able to read what you send them.

If you send your broker an incomplete documents package, the result is inevitable: Your mortgage application will be delayed as long as it takes for you to find the required materials, and your house shopping could be sidetracked for months.

Mistake 2: Blinded by the rate

Ask any mortgage broker and they’ll tell you that the question they’re asked most frequently is: “What’s your lowest rate?”

The interest rate you’ll pay on your mortgage is a massive consideration, so comparing the rates lenders are offering is a good habit once you’ve slipped on your house-hunter hat.

Rates have been on the rise lately given government actions to stimulate the Canadian economy. You may want to lock a low rate now, so you can hold onto it for up to 120 days.

But Chris Kolinski, broker at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based iSask Mortgages, says too many borrowers get obsessed with finding the lowest rate and ignore the other aspects of a mortgage that can greatly impact its overall cost.

“I always ask my clients ‘Do you want to get the best rate, or do you want to save the most money?’ because those two things are not always synonymous,” Kolinski says. “That opens a conversation about needs and wants.”

Many of the rock-bottom interest rates on offer from Canadian lenders can be hard to qualify for, come with limited features, or cost borrowers “a ton” of money if they break their terms, Kolinski points out.

Mistake 3: Not reading the fine print

Dalia Barsoum of Streetwise Mortgages in Woodbridge, Ontario, shares a universal message: “Read the fine print. Understand what you’re signing up for.”

Most borrowers don’t expect they’ll ever break their mortgages, but data collected by TD Bank shows that 7 in 10 homeowners move on from their properties earlier than they expect.

It’s critical to understand your loan’s prepayment privileges and the rules around an early departure. “If you exit the mortgage, how much are you going to pay? It’s really, really important,” Barsoum says.

She has seen too borrowers come to her hoping to refinance a mortgage they received from a private or specialty lender, only to find that what they were attempting was impossible.

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