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IEW: Trade talks ain’t what they used to be (open), says Gary Mason

Vancouver-based Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason writes, “Once upon a time, major international trade pacts were the source of controversy and great debate in Canada. The North American Free Trade Agreement ignited a national uprising. …It made national figures out of anti-NAFTA crusaders Mel Hurtig and Maude Barlow. Those were the days. For a few years now, Canada has been negotiating a free-trade agreement with Europe that is absolutely massive in scope. Ultimately, it could affect everything from health care to the environment. Yet, while the Council of Canadians and a few other groups have been sounding the alarm on the impact this deal could have on the country, theirs have been mostly voices in the wilderness.”

Mason adds, “Which brings us to this week’s news that Canada has been allowed provisional entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations – a trade deal much bigger in scale than NAFTA. …Secrecy has been the trademark of the discussions and will no doubt continue to be. There has, however, been one leak: a chapter of the proposed agreement involving investment. …According to Public Citizen, the trade deal would limit the extent to which signatory countries could regulate foreign firms operating within their boundaries, effectively giving them greater freedoms than domestic firms. It also reveals that all of the countries except Australia have agreed to terms around the operation of foreign tribunals, which would arbitrate disputes. The tribunals would be staffed by private-sector lawyers who would rotate between acting as judges and acting as advocates for the investors who might be suing a particular government over a TPP-related matter. Talk about a potential conflict of interest. And these are just a few of the more contentious issues discussed in the leaked draft. …Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada has not agreed to any specific measures. But we can only guess what that means.”

Ottawa-resident Paul Rowe writes in a letter to the editor, “Gary Mason lists only a few of the frightening aspects of the Harper government’s new priority trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Canada does not need to be party to another corporate rights charter. Let’s hope that the media, groups like the Council of Canadians and others shine lots of light on this potentially far-ranging deal before anything is signed.”

This week, the Council of Canadians was able to “shine some light” on the implications of the Trans Pacific Partnership in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Postmedia News newspapers across the country, and on CBC Radio, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=15828. Please also see our campaign web-page against the Trans Pacific Partnership which has the latest updates and commentary on the talks at http://canadians.org/trade/issues/TPP/index.html. And there is more to come.