The thirteenth round of Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) negotiations concluded in San Diego yesterday after the White House formally informed Congress that Canada would be joining future talks. However, Canadians are unlikely to know the important details of what happens behind closed doors.
“From the few details emerging, the TPP – a highly secretive pact initiated by the George W. Bush administration – grants special privileges to already powerful corporations,” commented Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands. “It has been dubbed ‘NAFTA on steroids.’ Some are even calling it a ‘corporate coup.’ This is not what Canadians want or need.”
Mainly based on leaks, it appears that the talks, which have included the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Sultanate of Brunei, are focussed on ensuring new enforceable corporate rights along with increased constraints on governments. Only two of TPP’s 26 chapters actually have anything to do with trade.
What is emerging is a pact promoting extensions on price-raising drug patent monopolies, increased corporate rights to attack government drug-pricing plans, safeguards for job off-shoring, and added corporate control over natural resources. This is particularly interesting in light of Bill C-38’s destruction of government influence over resource extraction.
There also appear to be severe limits to government regulation of financial services, zoning and land use, product and food safety, energy, and other essential services. The copyright chapter poses several threats to internet freedom along the lines of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was held up in the US Congress after effective public pressure.
The proposed pact will even limit the way governments can spend their tax dollars. Buy local procurement policies would be banned and human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts could be challenged in behind-closed-door foreign tribunals. There are proposed rules regarding the activities of publicly owned enterprises.
A recent leak of a particularly controversial TPP chapter revealed that the agreement will raise corporations and investors to the same status as sovereign nations. The so-called “investor state” provisions would give any foreign companies incorporated in TPP countries the right to ignore our courts and laws and sue our government directly by way of foreign tribunals. Businesses would be able to demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use, and other laws they think undermine their TPP privileges.
Already, in San Diego, we saw the CEO of Australian Pork Limited going after Canadian federal and provincial pork supports, even though Canada’s share of the world pork market has fallen because of the strong Canadian petro-dollar and high feed costs.
“The TPP negotiations were yet another disturbing example of the larger pattern of unaccountable, secretive, and undemocratic practices by the Harper government,” said May. “This pattern, once again, shows a real contempt for Canadians and for our democracy.”
The Green Party is determined to bring more TPP information to light before the 14th round of secret talks in early September inLeesburg, Virginia.