Obama: Playing hardball with Canada and Mexico in TPP (Source: Whitehouse.gov)
The conditions under which Canada was allowed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating table were “humiliating” and “demeaning,” writes Scott Sinclair, senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in The Tyee today.
“Sight unseen, the government of Canada has agreed to accept any negotiating text on which the nine current members have already reached consensus,” explains Sinclair in his article. “According to the USTR, this includes all agreed (‘unbracketed’) text within chapters that are still open, not just completed chapters.”
Sinclair points out that while only one TPP chapter has been concluded so far, “Canada will probably not be a full participant at the negotiating table until the fifteenth round, which will be held in December. In the meantime, two more full rounds in July and September will have been completed.”
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is “playing hardball,” he says, and “has brazenly stated that Canada and Mexico will not even be granted observer status at the July or September rounds. Presumably, they will not be granted access to the text either, until after the internal U.S. review period is over…
“This means that during the next two rounds, the nine current members will have the opportunity to reach consensus on areas where they know that Canada has sensitivities, notably agricultural market access, drug pricing, cultural industries, and copyright protection. It also means that U.S. lobbyists, representing everything from brand-name drugs, agricultural exports, motion pictures and softwood lumber, will have a free hand to try to insert their own poison pills ahead of Canada entry.”
Yesterday in the Toronto Star, Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa also commented that, “The price of admission [to the TPP] was steep — Canada appears to have agreed to conditions that grant it second-tier status — and the economic benefits from improved access to TPP economies are likely to be relatively minor since we already have free trade agreements with four of the 10 participants.”
Geist and Sinclair both point out that Canada and Mexico, which were invited to the TPP table by U.S. President Obama during the G20 meeting last week, will not have the veto authority of the other nine TPP members to stop chapters from being closed. Geist offers a concrete example of how that might affect the copyright negotiations:
This condition could be used to stop Canada from joining forces with another country on a tough issue during the late stages of the negotiation. For example, Canada and New Zealand both have copyright terms that last for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years. The U.S. has proposed that the TPP mandate a term of life plus 70 years. While Canada and New Zealand might be able to jointly block the extension, the U.S. could pressure New Zealand to cave on the issue and effectively force Canada to accept the change.
Sinclair ends his article with a challenge to Canadians to reject the TPP negotiations outright:
In its desperate bid to be part of these talks, the Harper government has left Canadians with a clear choice — to take an agreement shoved down our throats by the U.S. and its powerful corporate lobbies or to leave it. Given the obvious costs, the only dignified option is clear.
To read more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, see our campaign page here.