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St. John’s chapter tells TPP hearing it supports trade, not a bill of rights for transnationals

Ken Kavanagh

The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade today. The committee is visiting the Atlantic provinces this week seeking input on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Chapter activist Ken Kavanagh told the committee, “In case there is any doubt, let me say unequivocally and with the strongest conviction, that I do not support the TPP. …I am here today to express the concerns of my Chapter on this controversial trade deal.”

He then highlighted, “We support trade deals that respect the rights of people, labour and the environment and that reduce inequality between and among nations. …[But] modern day trade deals are no longer just about the exchange of goods and services between countries or about the reduction of tariffs. No. Modern day free trade agreements have morphed into a comprehensive and complex ‘bill of rights’ for huge and powerful multi-national corporations who desire to enshrine and protect their right to maximize profits at the expense of the rights of people and the environment.”

And Kavanagh concluded, “With all due respect, I can’t help but wonder if this whole process of conducting these cross-country hearings is nothing more than a charade by the Trudeau Government in the hope that the US will scuttle the deal in due course. There is some irony in the fact that I find myself depending on a US government to save Canadians from a trade deal that is not in our best interest.”

In the questioning that followed, Kavanagh tells us, “One of the Liberal MPs asked me what would be an alternative to the present investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the deal. My response – remove it!”

After Kavanagh presented, a representative of the Association of Seafood Producers spoke, followed by the CEO Ocean Choice International (OCI). When negotiations on the TPP were completed last October, an OCI media release stated, “We commend the efforts of the Government and Prime Minister Harper and Minister Fast in getting this deal done. The elimination of the high tariffs on our seafood imports into these growing markets provides us with the opportunity to enhance our market presence globally.”

However, what became clear from the follow-up questions was that while both the OCI and Seafood Association representatives were familiar with the tariff chapter, they had not given proper consideration to the other significant chapters in the TPP and their implications on democracy and the public interest.

The committee heard from our Saint John chapter on Monday, our PEI chapter on Tuesday, our St. John’s chapter today, and Council of Canadians activists will be taking part in a protest tomorrow in Halifax when the committee holds its hearings there.

The Council of Canadians has also been encouraging people to send their comments on the TPP to the parliamentary committee. To send your letter before the October 31 deadline, please click here.

The twelve countries that have signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership have set a deadline of November 2017 to ratify the deal.

For more on our campaign to Stop the TPP, please click here.