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Trans Pacific Partnership could be signed in March

The negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership – a free trade zone of twelve countries including Canada – could be concluded this March. The TPP, representing 40 per cent of the world’s economy, would also include the United States, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has described the TPP as a deal that will only benefit the wealthy 1 per cent, not the rest of us who make up the 99 per cent.

Global Trade Review reports, “Japan has offered the US a compromise on agriculture, as officials grow confident that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is close to completion. …[And] in recent months [it has also] become a key priority for the US government, as President Barack Obama looks to get it over the line before the expected tension between his Democrat Party and Republicans sets in towards the end of 2015, ahead of 2016’s presidential elections.” US Trade Representative Michael Froman now says, “The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus. We think everyone is focused on getting this done in a small number of months.” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asia Trade Center in Singapore, says much could be finalized this week and “then when the ministers meet, which is currently scheduled for March, they can do the final sign-off on the agreement and then you’re essentially finished.”

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson recently commented, “If Congress passes [Trade Promotion Authority also known as fast track authority], the American push to complete TPP (which it sees as a geopolitical response in Asia to Chinese power) will intensify. An American push will put the squeeze on Canada’s supply-managed farmers and the government that has defended them. …It would be difficult for the Harper government to make serious concessions on supply management at any time, so powerful are the supply-management lobbies. It would be harder still in an election year, counting on the support of farmers, who tend to vote Conservative, at least outside Quebec. [And yet] no concessions by Canada, or measly ones, might leave the country outside any final deal. The door would be open for Canada to join TPP later, but only if it amended supply management.”

That said, the newspaper also reported in November 2014 that, “It is expected Canada will face pressure to greatly reduce tariffs on foreign milk, eggs, cheese and poultry [with this deal]. The Canadian government has been adamant it will stand up for the protectionist dairy and poultry industry. But the tariffs shielding dairy and poultry products from foreign rivals are so high – from 150 per cent to nearly 300 per cent – that Ottawa has considerable room to trim them or to offer limited duty-free access.”

The Council of Canadians opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership. The concerns we have raised include: extended patent protections for prescription drugs that would delay the introduction of less-expensive generic drugs; investor-state provisions that would allow companies to sue governments over rules to protect the environment; procurement rules that would mean more corporate bidding-rights and restrictions on government spending to meet public interest priorities; common regulations and rules of origin; and the loss or weakening of Canada’s supply management system. Barlow says, “Once again the Harper government is forcing Canada into a major trade negotiation that will only benefit the 1 per cent. Like the Canada-EU deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership could force Canada to change its drug policies, its copyright policies, its environmental and public health rules – all without going through the normal parliamentary process. The deal would only benefit big business.”

The Global Trade Review article also notes, “Having previously seemed ambivalent towards the US foreign trade policy, in recent months the Obama administration has [also] put renewed effort into securing [a free trade agreement with the European Union].”

For more, please see our TPP campaign web-page here.