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Trans-Pacific Partnership text released without side letters, numerous concerns remain

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing a ‘comprehensive and progressive’ deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been reached, January 23.

The Canadian government has released the text of the so-called “comprehensive and progressive” Trans-Pacific Partnership, but numerous concerns about the deal remain including its investor-state dispute resolution provision.

1- Side letters not released

NDP Trade Critic Tracey Ramsey has posted, “The TPP text is out – but none of the side letters that contain the suspensions. They won’t be released until Mar. 8 when agreement is fully signed. So much for transparency.” The Liberal government had said side letters were signed to protect Canadian culture and with Japan on automotive standards, but those letters were not released for public scrutiny.

2- Largely the same as the TPP

The Japan Times reports, “Details revealed that the remaining 11 countries have managed to agree on terms close to the agreement’s original form. [Japan] worked to keep the deal largely unchanged except for key provisions which could eventually be reinstated to lure the United States back to the deal, and to potentially re-engage the Trump administration in the Asia-Pacific region. ‘One of the main reasons to keep the differences between the original TPP-12 and TPP-11 to a minimum is to induce the U.S. to come back to the deal’, said Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Japan’s chief TPP negotiator.”

3- Provisions suspended, not deleted

While Reuters reports, “More than 20 provisions have been suspended or changed in the final text”, the Japan Times more specifically notes the provisions are only “suspended”. Stuff adds, “[Professor Jane] Kelsey and other critics insist that by ‘suspending’ these provisions but not removing them the door is left open – particularly since CPTPP nations will be very keen to get the US into the agreement.”

4- Minimal gains vs large risks

Earlier this month, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives commented, “Even the rosiest economic projections of the CPTPP come up with only tiny economic gains: for example, a 0.082 per cent increase in Canadian GDP by 2035. This represents a one-time increase after 15 years, not an annual increase.” Now Stuff reports, “[The New Zealand government’s National Interest Analysis] puts the gains to New Zealand’s economy at between 0.3 and one per cent, or around $1.2b to $4b. Kelsey has argued these gains are minuscule compared to risks involved with signing up to the agreement.”

5- Investor-state dispute settlement provision remains

Stuff notes, “[The New Zealand government’s National Interest Analysis] includes a section on potential disadvantages to New Zealand, including around the controversial ISDS clause. ISDS clauses allow foreign investors to sue governments for law changes in an overseas tribunal. New Zealand and Australia have signed a ‘side letter’ which will stop investors from both countries suing under ISDS [but New Zealand’s Trade Minister David] Parker [acknowledges] ISDS has not disappeared from the agreement.”

6- Aspirational text in preamble, not binding rights

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network says, “The additional published text is only nine pages, with some changes from Canada to the non-binding preamble that mention cultural identity, indigenous rights and gender equity, but these are aspirational only, and will not affect the legally binding provisions in the rest of the agreement.”

7- US pharmaceutical demands suspended

Reuters reports, “Many [of the provisions that were suspended] had been inserted into the original TPP 12 at the demand of U.S. negotiators, such as rules ramping up intellectual property protection of pharmaceuticals, which some governments and activists worried would raise the costs of medicine.” The CCPA says, “[The suspended provisions] include some of the most aggressive U.S. IP demands [including] the minimum terms of data protection for biologics…” The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network notes, “Other governments had only reluctantly agreed to US proposals on stronger monopolies on biologic medicines and longer copyright monopolies to gain access to the US market.”

8- Canadian dairy remains vulnerable to imports

The CCPA has noted, “Dairy farmers were angered to learn that the market access concessions (3.25 per cent of the Canadian market) made by the Harper government to the U.S. will be shared out among the remaining TPP members, rather than scaled back to reflect the U.S. exit.” That means about 250 million litres of milk produced in Canada could be displaced on an annual basis as a result of this deal.

9- Chinese auto parts could flood North American market

The Globe and Mail has reported, “The TPP deal says that automotive parts only have to contain between 35 to 45 per cent content from TPP-member countries [including Vietnam and Malaysia] to qualify for duty-free access to Canada’s market.” Trade minister François-Philippe Champagne has stated, “We were able to achieve something that has never been achieved before, which is the largest market access for Canadian auto manufacturers in Japan, removing non-tariff trade barriers with respect to safety standards.” But Unifor argues that is reflected in a side letter, not the main agreement, and not enforceable.

The Council of Canadians joins with allies in calling for the release of the side letters and an independent assessment of its economic and social impacts.

The Liberal government is set to sign the TPP on March 8 in Chile.