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Barlow challenges Trans-Pacific Partnership in Vancouver; Freeland champions WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement

Photo by Harjap Grewal.


Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow challenged the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at a Canadian Labour Congress-sponsored town hall that brought together about 250 people in Vancouver last night.

Barlow tweeted, “Great turnout for Vancouver town hall on TPP!”

She was on a panel alongside CLC president Hassan Yussuff, British Columbia and Yukon Building and Construction Trades Council president Lee Loftus, and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-BC director Seth Klein.

During the forum, the Canadian Labour Congress tweeted:


  • “Donald Trump may be killing the #TPP, but let’s be clear: he is no friend of working people.” – Hassan Yussuff

  • “We didn’t see a single page of the #TPP before Canada signed it. Not one of the 6000 pages.” – Maude Barlow

  • “It’s a bad deal for the construction industry, a bad deal for farmers and a bad deal for Canada.” – Lee Loftus

Last night, the Canadian Press reported, “[Trade minister Chrystia] Freeland said the TPP can’t go ahead without the U.S. ‘Even if all other 11 ratified, there is no TPP’ …[Her comments] came one day after [US president-elect] Donald Trump’s renewed vow to pull the United States out of the controversial [TPP].”

The article adds, “A Canadian government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said no decision on pulling out of the TPP becomes final until February 2018.”

At the public forum in Vancouver, Barlow cautioned, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not dead until it’s dead.”

Yesterday afternoon Freeland also testified before the Canadian Senate’s trade committee. She stated, “At a time when so many other countries are being torn apart by ugly and polarized politics, I’m really pleased to be able to be here with you and to strongly support the TFA, which was struck by the previous government.”


The World Trade Organization website notes, “In December 2013, WTO members concluded negotiations on a Trade Facilitation Agreement at the Bali Ministerial Conference… The Trade Facilitation Agreement contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.”


As noted in this December 2013 campaign blog, Barlow has commented, “This was not a historic win for developing countries at the WTO. They scrape by with modest and temporary protections for food security policies that should be completely excluded from corporate trade rules, which are still biased in the interests of corporations and rich countries. The bargain, if you can call it that, also came at the high price of agreeing to a trade facilitation agreement that further locks in a neo-colonial trading system that has condemned much of the world to poverty.”


At that time, the Associated Press also reported, “Critics say WTO rules may hinder countries from setting their own priorities in environmental protection, worker rights, food security and other areas. And they say sudden reductions in import tariffs can wipe out industries, causing job losses in rich and poor countries.”


And last night CBC Parliamentary Bureau reporter Janyce McGregor noted, “[At the recent APEC summit in Peru], Freeland met countries in other trade blocs like the Pacific Alliance (Latin America), Mercosur (South America) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). All want to trade more with Canada, she said. A bilateral trade push with China (and Hong Kong) continues.”


Among the various ‘free trade’ agreements the Canadian government could pivot to in Asia-Pacific are the proposed Canada-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Canada-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA); the 16-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would include seven of the twelve TPP signatories: the 21-country Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which includes all twelve TPP countries; and the 50-country Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which includes eight of the twelve TPP countries.