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.