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Canada will need to join global opposition to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks

In addition to Brent Patterson’s blog post this morning about Canada and Mexico requesting to join the TPP free trade talks, I thought I’d share this section from the US Citizens Trade Campaign website. You’ll see from the bullet points (also pasted below) that we’re dealing with another CETA only this one spanning four continents — a kind of Free Trade Area of the Pacific which will also include US-style intellectual property protections, an investor-state dispute process, procurement and pressure on Canada to dismantle its supply management systems for dairy, poultry and eggs.

All other TPP member nations will have to agree to Canada and Mexico (and Japan) joining but it’s probably a sure thing now with Obama’s blessing. The good news is there is healthy opposition to the TPP, including a strong statement by major unions in all of the negotiating countries.

Their joint declaration, released a month ago, states the following on public services:

…The TPPTA must include a broad, explicit carve-out for essential public services, including education, employment services, health care, post, sanitation, social services, transport and utilities. Public services should be excluded regardless of whether or not the public provider competes with private providers. In addition, governments must retain their ability to regulate foreign service providers in order to enact and enforce certification and licensing standards, consumer protections, and other public interest laws. We also urge that the negotiations proceed on a positive list approach…

On investment, the declaration says:

…The TPPTA should not include an investor-to-state dispute resolution mechanism, nor should the rules allow for challenges to legitimate public interest regulations. Foreign investors simply must not be given any greater rights than those enjoyed by domestic investors.

And on procurement:

Often, governments use procurement policy in furtherance of important public policy aims such as local economic development and job creation. Governments have also conditioned procurement to promote environmental and social goals. Governments should ensure that the procurement chapter does not constrain the ability of central, regional or local governments and authorities to carry out these objectives.

Canadian organizations working on trade will need to quickly develop a response to this new front in Harper’s ideological liberalization agenda which includes negotiations with the EU, India, right-of-centre Latin American nations, China and now a group of Asia-Pacific countries who are apparently half a year or so away from signing the TPP.

It won’t be difficult with the existing opposition to the TPP in all participating countries. In October, Japanese farmers groups gathered over 11 million signatures against Japan joining the negotiations. Groups fighting heavy-handed intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies have proposed a new approach to intellectual property protection in the TPP talks which US negotiators will fight fiercely.

I’m hoping to have a section on this regional agreement on our website soon. In the meantime, some good links:

Citizens Trade Campaign: The Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement: NAFTA for the Pacific Rim?

Exert: Here are some of the questions yet to be answered:

– Labor rights: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA include labor standards based on International Labor Organization conventions, and if included, how will they be enforced?
– Investment Provisions: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA include so-called “investor-to-state” provisions that allow individual corporations to challenge environmental, consumer and other public interest policies as barriers to trade?
– Public Procurement: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA respect nations’ and communities’ right to set purchasing preferences that keep taxpayer dollars re-circulating in local economies?
– Access to Medicines: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow governments to produce and/or obtain affordable, generic medications for sick people?
– Agriculture: Will the Trans-Pacific FTA allow countries to ensure that farmers and farm workers are fairly compensated, while also preventing the agricultural dumping that has forced so many family farmers off their land?

If labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, faith, immigrant rights, human rights and other social justice advocates don’t force Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations into the public light, the answers to these questions aren’t likely to be ones we’ll be happy with.

AFTINET: Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (section on TPP)

Bilaterals.org website section on TPP