TPP: Urgent need for full, independent assessment

Hearings into the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership kicked off in Vancouver with a stark warning from the Trade Justice Network about the deal’s many negative consequences, and an urgent call for a comprehensive, public and independent assessment of the pact.

TJN co-chair Blair Redlin told members of the House of Commons Committee on International Trade there is no rush to ratify the TPP, and every reason for a proper economic, social and environmental evaluation of the deal.

Outside the hearings, demonstrators rallied against Canada ratifying the deal, and advocacy group OpenMedia organized a giant TV screen displaying protest messages from across the country.

Redlin told the committee the TPP is not about trade, as 97 per cent of Canada’s exports to TPP countries are already duty-free. Instead the deal aims to secure and expand corporate rights and protections.

The TPP’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system will let foreign corporations sue governments if a law or regulation interferes with their investments – and profits. Under these NAFTA-style rules, Canada is already the most-sued developed country. Expanding access to this one-sided process could mean a spike in new cases.

The TPP’s controversial ISDS rules will limit government powers to regulate in the public interest, including by supporting industries that create good local jobs, and protecting the environment. A government investing in transit or wind turbines could face challenges for favouring local procurement.

Ratifying the TPP comes at a high price, said Redlin. Independent analysis of the deal has found it will:

  • cost Canada 58,000 jobs;
  • increase income inequality;
  • limit access to generic drugs, which in turn will drive up health care costs;
  • let corporations move to countries with cheaper labour and weaker labour laws;
  • hurt Canada’s agricultural, manufacturing and technology sectors; and
  • threaten internet freedom.

Redlin highlighted the outcomes of a recent TJN-sponsored forum, where Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz described the TPP as “the worst trade deal ever.”

The TPP was finalized by the former Harper government during last year’s federal election, and then signed by the new Liberal government. Consultations on the deal have been limited, poorly publicized, and have appeared to favour the voices of corporations – not citizens.

Blair Redlin’s presentation notes

Federal leaders’ debate: Canada’s trade deals need independent analysis, not corporate cheerleading, says Trade Justice Network

Ottawa — On the cusp of Thursday’s federal election debate on the economy, the Trade Justice Network, (www.tradejustice.ca), a coalition of Canadian unions, environmental groups and citizens’ groups, is calling on federal leaders to mandate the Parliamentary Budget Officer to do real fact-based analysis before they sign “free trade” deals that are destructive to Canadian jobs. In the case of CETA, the Canada-European Union trade agreement that has already been signed by the Harper government, this analysis should happen immediately.

In particular, the Trade Justice Network would like trade deals to be analyzed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer as part of a process of full accountability to Parliament, a recommendation made earlier today by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. Payette has asked if the PBO could do an independent analysis of CETA, the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement between Canada and the EU.

“Most Canadians wouldn’t buy a new car without researching the warranty coverage, the mileage, reviews of the vehicle and so on.  Yet our government would have us agree to sweeping economic agreements like CETA and the TPP without providing us any facts at all, just empty slogans about how wonderful things will be after we sign on,” says Larry Brown, national secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees and co-chair of the Trade Justice Network.

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, echoed this concern. “With CETA, Harper has been promoting dubious job figures that many economists have challenged. These deals often have nothing to do with real economic trade and with jobs but are corporate rights treaties that benefit only the few.  When we are making decision of that great importance, they cannot be negotiated in secret with no accountability to citizens and with no any real independent analysis.”

In Australia, the Productivity Commission, an independent government advisory body, analyzes trade deals before they are signed and has recently expressed concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently under negotiation.

“We completely support the Senator’s request to the PBO for some research into the real impacts of CETA or the TPP, and we wouldn’t want this research to wait until we’ve already signed on to the deals, we should be given the facts about the TPP long before our Government commits us to the deal, and certainly deserve the facts about CETA before it is ratified,” concluded Brown.

The Trade Justice Network is comprised of environmental, civil society, student, Indigenous, cultural, farming, labour and social justice organizations that have come together to challenge the scope and secret negotiating process of most free trade agreements. It emphasizes the need for a more sustainable, equitable and socially just international trade regime.

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Contact: Sujata Dey, (613) 796-7724