UPDATE: Council of Canadians protests the Trans Pacific Partnership

The Council banner visible at the protest.

The Council banner visible at the protest.

Trew speaking at the TPP protest.

Trew speaking at the TPP protest.

More than 200 people gathered in the Peace Arch Park on the British Columbia-Washington state border this weekend to protest the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The 15th round of TPP talks will take place in Auckland, New Zealand this coming week. This round is particularly significant in that it's the first round in which Canada will officially participate.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is currently an eleven-member Asia-Pacific 'free trade' proposal being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and now Canada and Mexico. The deal would reportedly eclipse the North American Free Trade Agreement in size and scope. The concerns that have been raised include: extended patent protections for prescription drugs that would delay the introduction of less-expensive generic drugs; investor-state provisions that would allow companies to sue governments over rules to protect the environment; procurement rules that would mean more corporate bidding-rights and restrictions on government spending to meet public interest priorities; common regulations and rules of origin; and the loss or weakening of Canada’s supply management system.

This past June, the Globe and Mail reported Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stating, "Once again the Harper government is forcing Canada into a major trade negotiation that will only benefit the 1 per cent. Like the Canada-EU deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership could force Canada to change its drug policies, its copyright policies, its environmental and public health rules – all without going through the normal parliamentary process." The Toronto Star quoted Barlow saying, "The deal will only benefit big business. We commit to fighting this deal and Harper’s other economic pacts that have nothing to do with jobs or trade and everything to do with limiting what we can do as a society to live sustainably and equitably."

Council activist Cathy Wilander speaks against the TPP.

Council activist Cathy Wilander speaks against the TPP.

A 'North American Unity Statement Opposing NAFTA Expansion through the Trans-Pacific Partnership' was made public this weekend and a target of 1,000 organizational signatures was announced. Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew stated, "We're calling on social justice organizations throughout Canada, Mexico and the Unites States to sign onto the unity statement, first, in recognition of the threat the TPP poses to their members and, second, in recognition that it will take all of us coming together across geographic and issue-area borders in order to win." Organizations wanting to sign the statement, can go to http://tppxborder.org/organizational-statement-of-unity/.

Additionally, a New Zealand news agency reports this hour, "A small group of protesters are picketing an international trade conference which starts in Auckland today. Around 20 placard-carrying protesters are outside the centre with police watching on. A protest march through the city is scheduled for later today."

The next round of talks are expected to take place in March 2013. And while it's seen as an optimistic deadline, it has been reported that TPP negotiations are to conclude by October 2013.

The Council of Canadians campaign web-page opposing the TPP can be found at http://canadians.org/tpp. Council campaign blogs on the TPP can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?s=%22trans+pacific+partnership%22.