On June 16th the House Committee on International Trade held its 27th meeting about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, Scott Sinclair, and Gus Van Harten were all in Ottawa to tell parliamentarians just how bad the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be for Canada.
We outlined the limitations on governments right to regulate in the public interest, the expensiveness and unpredictability of Investor-State dispute mechanisms, and the ways in which the deal will tie the government’s hands in trying to implement their mandate for economic growth, a green transition, managing health care costs, and indigenous rights.
There was limited time to make our case though, as presentations are limited to 5 minutes, and answers to questions were even shorter. I left the meeting feeling as if I wanted to clarify a few points:
- Being pro-trade is not the same as being pro-trade deals. Similarly, being against trade deals doesn’t mean you’re against trade. We’ve long past the point where trade deals have much to do with lowering tariffs. Instead, trade and investment deals have become a convenient back-door for multi-national corporations to lobby for legislative and regulatory changes that they could never get through a democratic process. One example is the extension ofcopyright duration to life + 70 years, which has some pretty significant benefits for Disney & Hollywood in general, but that the librarians (and others) have significant concerns about. Another example is opening up access to unlimited numbers of temporary work visas, with no right to require needs tests or to set limits, and no mechanism to enforce wages and working conditions for these vulnerable workers. It’s this bypassing of democratic institutions that is most worrying.
- Even the most rosy macro-economic analysis of the TPP shows limited benefits for economic growth. And these analyses were undertaken with unrealistic assumptions. They assume that the trade balance stays constant (when actually we’ve seen an increasing trade deficit after signing our trade deal with South Korea, for example), and they assume that employment stays constant. If you use a model that allows these outcomes to vary, like the Tuft’s University study did, you find smaller economic benefits overall, and that workers in all TPP nations lose out. Pointing out that there is the potential for limited micro-level benefits (say, for beef producers) does nothing to change the big picture analysis that Canadians and workers overall would lose out from the TPP.
- In general, the process for negotiating trade deals is secretive and not accessible to most Canadians. Scott Sinclair is a veteran of Canadian trade negotiations, and he says that the TPP was the most secretive ever. When you consider that large pharma, energy, and tobacco corporations and lobbyists *are* often included, and civil society organizations are not – it’s not only secret, it’s plain undemocratic.
- It is time to come back to more reasonable form of investor protection. A Canadian company has never won an ISDS case against the United States, but we have been successful under WTO processes. Investor protections which should be:
- subsidiary to national judicial processes,
- should privilege state-to-state settlements, and
- should emphasize investors’ responsibilities just as much as the protection of their assets.
If you want more detail, here is a link to Scott Sinclair’s testimony,
To learn even more and add your voice to stop the TPP, visit stoptpp.ca