Rallies yesterday in Toronto, Nanaimo and Montreal drew attention to the excessive secrecy in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations which continued in Brunei this week behind closed doors. The actions were coordinated by the Council of Canadians, Common Frontiers, CUPE, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, OpenMedia and local allies.
In Toronto, Raul Burbano (Common Frontiers, pictured on the right), Gilleen Witkowski (Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, pictured four photos from bottom), Toronto Centre NDP hopeful Jennifer Hollett (pictured three photos from bottom) and I spent the lunch hour across from the U.S. Consulate to demand the release of the full TPP text and a more public role in negotiating trade deals that are supposed to benefit everyone but which are mainly good at empowering corporations and weakening our democracies.
“Although the TPP is called a trade agreement it is more of a corporate rights agreement,” read a press release issued by the Nanaimo chapter of the Council of Canadians, which organized a demo outside of Conservative MP James Lunney’s offices yesterday (see chalk on left and final two photos below).
“Only two of the 26 chapters under negotiation have anything to do with trade. The other 24 include how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and can not do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits.”
In Montreal, Diane Singhroy with UAEM joined activists from the Council of Canadians – Montreal Chapter, Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN) and others outside the U.S. Consulate, entering the building for a short time. “We told them who we were and why we had come,” said Abdul Pirani of the Montreal Council of Canadians. “It seemed they were not listening and asked us to leave, ready to push us out and locked the door behind us for the day.”
The rallies, part of a global week of action on the TPP, are inspired by an outbreak of popular actions in the United States against the TPP from trade justice activists and the Occupy movement. The call for complete transparency has a lot of strength behind it across the political spectrum and a precedent in the releasing of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) text by the U.S. government in 2001.
While it’s unclear whether there will be another full TPP negotiating round to target for more actions, it is our challenge to increase the public awareness of the major NAFTA-plus negotiations that will weaken so many areas of public policy. Activists are encouraged to continue to plan rallies outside Conservative MP’s offices while Parliament is prorogued, to read more about the TPP on websites like the Council of Canadians, OurFairDeal.org, Public Citizen,TPPxBorder.org and Doctors Without Borders, and to write to local newspapers with your concerns.
To help coordinate actions in the coming weeks and months, the Canadian organizations behind the week of action have created a new Facebook campaign page called Expose the TPP. If you have a Facebook account, please consider “liking” the campaign and sharing your own actions on the page. As I told the Toronto rally yesterday, despite the late stage of the TPP negotiations, this is a beginning and not the end of a movement to demand transparency and a fair deal for communities, workers and the environment.
Some more photos from yesterday…