It is expected that Canada, the United States, Mexico, Japan and eight other countries will conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership ‘free trade’ deal at some point today.
1. Pharmaceutical drug patents
Reuters reports, “A dozen Pacific nations closed in on a sweeping free trade pact on Sunday in Atlanta after a breakthrough over how long a monopoly pharmaceutical companies should be given on new biotech drugs.” The International Business Times explains, “The U.S., Australia and Canada haggled over how long pharmaceutical companies can hold exclusive rights to medicines. In the U.S., companies can hold exclusive rights for 12 years before releasing their initial genetic research to the public. The U.S. and Australia have allegedly compromised on eight years of exclusivity, according to unconfirmed reports by Radio Canada on Sunday.”
The major concern here is that longer patent monopolies for transnational pharmaceutical corporations will delay the introduction of more affordable generic equivalents.
2. Auto parts
Reuters also notes, “By Saturday, the United States and Japan had reached agreement in principle on trade in autos and auto parts in talks that had also included Canada and Mexico. That agreement is expected to give U.S. automakers, led by General Motors and Ford two decades or more of tariff protection against low-cost pickup truck imports from Thailand or elsewhere in Asia, people briefed on the talks have said. But the TPP deal taking shape would also give Japan’s auto industry, led by Toyota Motor, a freer hand to source parts from Asia, including from plants outside the TPP-zone like China, on vehicles sold in North America. A ‘rule of origin’ would stipulate that only 45 percent of a vehicle would have to be sourced from within the TPP, down from the equivalent ratio of 62.5 percent under NAFTA, officials have said.”
Unifor has expressed strong concern that if rules of origin requirements are eased that would mean that Japan could export more vehicles into North America with fewer parts manufactured in Canada. Unifor president Jerry Dias has warned that could cost 25,000 good-paying jobs in this country.
The International Business Times reports, “One of the other major holdups to conclusion of the deal concerned the regulation of dairy imports. New Zealand is home to the largest dairy company in the world and wants increased access to U.S., Canadian and Japanese markets. The U.S. and Canada, in particular, have protested increased imports, fearing that the imported milk could drive domestic dairy farmers out of business.” Reuters adds, “New Zealand wants to ensure its dairy industry, dominated by Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, comes out as a clear winner in a TPP deal by opening markets like Canada, Mexico, Japan and the United States.”
Currently 90 per cent of the Canadian dairy market is closed to imports. There is strong concern that the Harper government will agree to an arrangement that will mean more American milk coming into Canada without getting reciprocal access for dairy exports from Canada to the United States. The fear is Canada may be required to open its dairy market to US imports to compensate US dairy producers for opening their market to New Zealand.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair stated today, “The NDP, when we form government on Oct. 19, will not be bound by this secret agreement that Mr. Harper has been negotiating.” He has also vowed to “rip up” the deal if it puts family farms at risk. That’s a stronger position than he was taking just a few days ago. And on September 30, the Canadian Press reported, “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said more blandly he hasn’t been contacted about the TPP and has criticized a general lack of transparency around the talks. He says Canadians need to know that their government is negotiating in a way that is going to enhance their country’s opportunities and growth while protecting its interests.”
The Council of Canadians
We oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. Along with being concerned about delays to the introduction of less expensive generic drugs, the loss of thousands of jobs in the auto parts sector, and the devastation to family-run dairy farms, we have also highlighted that the Trans-Pacific Partnership has a NAFTA Chapter 11-like investor-state dispute settlement provision which would allow corporations to sue governments for compensation when environmental, health or other regulatory policies interfere with profits; and procurement rules that would mean more corporate bidding-rights and restrictions on government spending to meet public interest priorities.
Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has condemned the TPP stating, “Once again the Harper government is forcing Canada into a major trade negotiation that will only benefit the 1 per cent.”
For more on our campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please click here.