Fighting the TPP

On Thursday, February 11th, 2016 in Articles by Elizabeth, Island Tides, TPP

The federal government has now committed to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The signing is necessary, the Liberals say, in order to be able to fully debate the TPP.  International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has compared signing the TPP to “dating,” while ratification is “getting married.”  The minister is prepared to start the consultation by signing, but has not committed to ratification.

Of course, Canada has a choice and should decide to reject the TPP.  We shouldn’t sign. In that, the new government would have a solid argument – the agreement was concluded in secret by the previous Conservative government in the midst of the election.  It was pretty shocking as, in a writ period, the tradition is that any government is limited to minimal and essential activities.  The terminology is that the any government in an election is a “care-taker government.”  In the writ period, under the Conservative government, Canada skipped major United Nations meetings to negotiate the new Sustainable Development Goals, replacing the MDGs.  But when it came to the TPP, Ed Fast, former Trade Minister, left the campaign trail to negotiate in Florida.

In the campaign, the Conservatives lauded the TPP as opening up the world’s largest ever trade bloc, with a combined “new” market of over $27 trillion. Of course, the reality is that the vast majority of that “new” market is found in the three members of the existing NAFTA.  Canada, the US and Mexico make up $21 trillion of the “new” markets open to Canada.  The nine nations of the Pacific region joining NAFTA nations are Vietnam, Singapore, Peru, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia. For a Pacific regional deal, large economies like China and Indonesia are not included.

Meanwhile, the key elements of TPP are not in Canada’s interest.

Provisions that protect pharmaceutical companies from competition and generic drugs will drive up the costs of Canadian medicines.  The dairy sections pose a threat to supply management and Canadian dairy producers. Despite the fact that TPP promoters deny this is true, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced billions of dollars in compensation to dairy farmers in the midst of the election campaign.  In fact, this TPP compensation was never secured, but why was it put forward, if, as promoters claim, supply management is protected? The reality is that the Canadian milk supply will be open for the first time to competition.  US milk, contaminated by the GMO Bovine Growth Hormone, will be allowed in Canada.

Prominent businessman and Blackberry founder, Jim Balsillie, has blasted TPP.  He argues that the Intellectual Property (IP) provisions of TPP are skewed structurally.  The IP provisions will enrich those countries that already have significant IP ownership.  Due to years of failed policies, Canada has fallen behind in innovation.  No wonder the previous government worked to expand export opportunities for Canadian beef, seafood and canola, but has negotiated an agreement that will prevent Canada from ever establishing our economy as one benefitting from innovation and IP.  As Balsillie wrote in a January 30, 2016 article in the Globe and Mail, “Make no mistake about it: This is not your father’s trade agreement. TPP clearly demarks a shift in global value creation from tangible to intangible goods by creating unprecedented advantages to current large holders and producers of IP.”

For all this, even with the lop-sided benefits to the US, this is the first trade deal to face serious opposition in the US.  Two prominent members of the Clinton administration now oppose Obama’s TPP.  Both Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and former Labour Secretary Robert Reich oppose TPP.  The major reason for their objection is the Investor State provisions.  Their objections, and likely those of her surprisingly effective competitor Bernie Sanders, appear to have influenced Hilary Clinton who now opposes TPP. There is a compelling case for Canada to avoid any commitment to TPP when there is a strong chance it may never be ratified by the US.

The primary driver for US politicians (0n the left and the right) to denounce the TPP is the presence of an investor-state agreement.  The TPP will give corporations from nine new nations the right to bring multi-billion dollar arbitration claims against Canada.  Based on the first of these pernicious agreements, Chapter 11 of NAFTA, the growing web of investor state agreements (also called “Foreign Investor Protection and Promotion Agreements – FIPA’s) are a threat to the sovereignty of nations.  Together they comprise the machinery of global corporate rule. That is why Joseph Stiglitz pointed out that TPP is not a trade agreement.  It is an agreement to manage trade.

With the recent Chapter 11 challenge by Trans-Canada against the US government for its decision to reject the Keystone pipeline, more Americans are now noticing Chapter 11. The size of Trans-Canada’s claim- $15 billion – gets their attention.  Canada has been the loser in case after case of Chapter 11 challenges to environmental laws and decisions.  The US government and its corporations virtually always win contributing to low public awareness of the threat of Chapter 11 in the states.  Ironically, we may end up thanking Trans-Canada for the defeat of the TPP.

Originally published in Island Tides.

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  • Lightning1945

    Freeland’s interpretation that ‘signing’ is like ‘dating’ is rather naive. I don’t ever recall signing anything when i dated my wife, but things were pretty set in stone once i signed that marriage certificate, and it strikes me that signing the TPP is equally binding, especially with a tough customer like China.

    The fact that the agreement was concluded in secret by the Harper squad is enough to nullify it for me. I am thankful that we have such a watchdog in Elizabeth May to investigate these things.

  • robertjb

    Open letter to Minister of Trade Chrystia Freeland On the TPP

    The Honorable Chrystia Freeland

    Minister of Trade

    House of Commons, Ottawa Ontario

    February 19th, 2016

    Dear Ms.

    I find it necessary to write you as we are once again facing passage of another trade deal in a time when too many have been stampeded into existence without proper scrutiny and without regard for their consequences.

    After all these years the devastating social and economic consequences of existing deals are manifest and well documented yet governments repeatedly refuse to address them. Their only response is to acquiesce to more deals.

    Going back to the time of the Brian Mulroney’s FTA these have been presented to the public as “free trade” agreements. In fact this is a parody of their real intention. A cursory review of them reveals they are about much more.

    The TPP is presented as a “partnership.” Here again this is a disingenuous term. A partnership implies all participants are roughly equal in standing. With the TPP, the world’s largest economy is really conscripting much smaller satellite economies under its dominance. It follows the major benefits of any such agreement will accrue to the dominant partner.

    The actual origins of the TPP have less to do with free trade and more to do with trade wars. The TPP was born out of America’s “Asian Pivot” and the 2011 manifesto America’s Pacific Century (APC). The APC is a strategic plan for military and economic and military dominance of the Pacific and China is the target. Tensions between these two powers are rising.

    The TTP might more accurately be described as a conscription of smaller economies as ”foot soldiers” in America’s trade war with China; just as NATO countries are conscripted into its military wars in the Middle East and beyond. Foot soldiers in any type of warfare are among the first casualties.

    The TPP is made in America to serve American transnational corporations. It is an economic instrument to advance US global hegemony. It certainly will not serve the American people. The history of the US in the past few decades has seen the public good enslaved to corporatism. The rapacious ascendance of neoliberalism and agreements like the NAFTA have devastated the fabric of American society.

    It is noteworthy three of America’s most prominent economists; Michael Hudson,
    Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich have come out strongly against the TPP. Their advice is compelling.

    For Canada this is one deal too many. Over the last forty years we have seen an incremental loss of our sovereignty. Successive governments had been led blindly
    into too many deals. The time has come where real leadership must prevail and
    the integrity of consultations is irrefutable.

    Canada must be so bold as to set its own ratification process. This should include cross country public hearings no later than next spring and a binding national referendum no later than June 30th, 2017. On such important matters the decision
    must be the unequivocal choice of the majority of Canadians. It is also a unique opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to genuine democratic values.


    Robert Billyard,

    Mission BC

    Please sign on and share:

  • Bernard Bintner

    On the fundamental Canadian issue, the economy: our vast, resource-rich, and well-equipped nation is struggles with economic recessions, unemployment, and massive debt. Why?

    Conservatives and Liberals have continually claimed we need to weld ourselves to globalism. Then they fail to provide any concrete analysis of why one-size-fits-all “free trade” deals (FTA and NAFTA, now TPP) are necessary for Canadian prosperity. Alas, those who promote these deals are those who benefit: the large multi-national corporations, the billionaires, and countries that facilitate the exploitation of their own people. They simply want to extract
    un-processed Canadian natural resources and energy as rapidly as possible and combined with cheap labour in other countries, collect massive revenues for

    Endless “promises” from Conservatives and Liberals in conjunction with these deals has proven to be both empty rhetoric and outright lies. In fact, we have reaped massive job and wage losses, especially in manufacturing and other value-added enterprises. Implementation of free trade deals has practically guaranteed a net loss of wealth to Canadians and diminished our ability to meet domestic objectives such as infrastructure and social programs.

    Realistically, globalism was not engineered with respect to the sovereignty and vision of the nation state; on the contrary, national objectives and targets are made vulnerable and subordinated to corporate claims for compensation. Canada, of all places in the world has no need for such a self-limiting approach to its economy and legacy.

    The Canadian public is not clamoring for more international “free trade” deals; and the Conservative/Liberal promotion of the corporate agenda is not what Canadians would expect from a strongly functioning democracy. It’s shameful that Canadians should be repeatedly blind-sided and betrayed by our own governments.

    The root cause of the economic problem points to the real solution. We need to re-arm ourselves with knowledge of our recent history and a renewed awareness of the abundant possibilities inherent in Canada. We need our government to re-claim the purpose, the direction, and the control of our economy. Let’s begin again to realize the true potential of Canada.

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