What is the TPP?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is promoted as a trade agreement to reduce trade barriers among 12 Pacific Rim nations - Canada, the USA, Mexico, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The TPP is criticized, however, as an agreement that will significantly affect Canadian sovereignty. As Elizabeth May writes in her compelling piece in Embassy magazine, When is a trade agreement not a trade agreement?, the TPP is yet another investor state agreement that will increase corporate control of the global economy.
Most of the TPP agreement has little to do with trade, only 5 of the over 30 chapters in fact. Plus there is concern that the TPP will have a negative effect on the Canadian economy.
What the TPP does affect has broad implications for Canadians and Canada. It will:
- Increase drug cost for Canadians by extending patent protection for pharmaceutical companies.
- Require revision of copyright laws in ways that limit access to the Internet.
- Affect Canadian laws that control data transfer and protect privacy
- Significantly affect supplied managed agriculture and Canadian food sovereignty
- Increase opportunities for companies to choose to employ foreign workers over Canadians and move their operations to lower-wage countries.
- Intensify income inequality as the proportion of income increases to businesses and decreases for wage earners
- Limit environmental regulations, including action on climate change to ensure they do not 'hurt' trade and investment
The TPP was negotiated in secret over 7 years. Canada only joined negotiations in 2012 and only after agreeing to "unprecedented and humiliating restrictions on Canada's ability to negotiate freely" on any of the text on which the nine original member countries had reached consensus. Canada had to accept that text 'as is'.
The Harper administration then 'signed' the agreement during the election in October 2015 with no discussion or debate in the House of Commons and only a glowing press release. The actual text of the agreement was not released until after the election, in November 2015.
What's the key concern with the TPP?
At the heart of the problem with the TPP and many other international trade agreements is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process. Simply put, ISDS provides a way for corporations to override public policy and decisions. An unelected international panel rules on disputes, and their ruling supersedes the laws of the involved countries. The sovereignty of a nation is bypassed - in other words, Canada cannot enforce its own laws.
Under NAFTA, such decisions have already cost Canadian taxpayers over $170 million, with another $6 billion in challenges looming, and millions more paid out in legal fees to fight these challenges. The TPP further expands the potential for corporations to challenge Canadian regulations, laws and, ultimately, our democracy.
A recent article in The Tyee, Seven Ways TPP Favours Mega-Rich Foreign Investors, Not Canadians, concludes:
"The TPP is a threat to our institutions of sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. At the core of the threat is the uncertain and potentially huge price tag that the TPP puts on any law or regulation opposed by a foreign investor. The problem is not that foreign investors would be too big to fail. It is that the TPP would make the biggest and richest ones too risky to regulate."
The new Liberal government has not yet signed or ratified the TPP; however, the new Minister of International Trade, Ms. Chrystia Freeland, said that Canada will sign and that it is a black and white 'yes or no' to ratify. A commitment for public consultation was made during the 2015 election campaign and the government is signalling that this will happen; however, the TPP cannot be renegotiated.
The bottom line is that Canada needs to draw a line in the sand and actually discuss the agreement and determine whether it works for Canadians or not. It is NOT too late.