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Barlow condemns TPP as a deal for the 1% as next round of talks approaches

TPP secret negotiations

The Council of Canadians protested the TPP talks in Ottawa last summer.

The Council of Canadians opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Toronto Star explains, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed free trade agreement between 12 countries on the Pacific Ocean: Canada, the U.S., Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei. …The TPP covers a wide range of non-tariff concerns, including intellectual property, food safety, and labour standards. …The negotiations have been conducted in secret. Drafts have been leaked of TPP sections on three significant topics: intellectual property, the environment, and ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ — common but controversial rules that give companies the right to go to arbitration panels, outside the regular courts, to challenge laws they believe violate their rights under the deal.”

The articles adds, “The countries involved are hinting that they are close to a deal, but we don’t know exactly how close.” There had been speculation earlier this year that the agreement could be concluded by March, but that deadline has now obviously passed. The next TPP ministerial meeting takes place this May 26-28 in the Philippines.

The deal does face continuing obstacles including, “The U.S. Congress hasn’t yet given Obama ‘fast-track’ authority — the power to negotiate a deal without having Congress change it. Other countries, including Canada, say they can’t agree to concessions if they know Congress could fiddle. The U.S. and Japan, the two largest economies involved, haven’t resolved their clash over two delicate policies: U.S. tariffs on auto parts and Japan’s heavy fortifications around its cherished rice market. And the U.S. also has an unresolved beef with Canada over the ‘supply management’ system that protects dairy and poultry farmers.”

On that latter point, “The Obama administration has suggested repeatedly that Canada could be kicked out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership if it refuses to abandon the ‘supply management’ system that protects dairy and poultry farmers from competition. …Supply management shields farmers through a web of production quotas, hefty import tariffs and prices set by industry boards rather than the free market. The system benefits only about 15,000 farmers, and costs consumers millions in higher prices, but the issue is widely viewed as politically delicate.”

In January, Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson commented, “It would be difficult for the Harper government to make serious concessions on supply management at any time, so powerful are the supply-management lobbies. It would be harder still in an election year [which this is], counting on the support of farmers, who tend to vote Conservative, at least outside Quebec. [And yet] no concessions by Canada, or measly ones, might leave the country outside any final deal. The door would be open for Canada to join TPP later, but only if it amended supply management.”

Today’s news report quotes Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow who states, “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.”

To call on the Harper government to publish the draft text of the TPP before any final agreement is signed, please click on our action alert here.

For more, please see our Trans Pacific Partnership campaign web-page here.