While the Trudeau government has stated it has not taken a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), their responses to the concerns being expressed by people writing to them makes it clear they are defending the controversial deal. That should raise the concern that beyond them signing the deal tomorrow, they also plan to ratify it within the next two years.
In form letter responses being sent to Council of Canadians activists and allies, Global Affairs Canada (Trudeau's department of foreign affairs and international trade) says:
"Our government supports free trade – it will help to open markets to Canadian goods and services, grow Canadian businesses, create good-paying jobs, and provide choice to Canadian consumers."
(And yet a study by Tufts University found that the TPP will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality. An EKOS poll in October 2015 found that 61 per cent of Canadians believe the TPP will mean job losses in Canada, with just 24 per cent disagreeing with that statement.)
"With respect to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the TPP will not impair the ability of Canada or its partners to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture, safety, health and conservation. Our experience under the NAFTA demonstrates that neither our investment protection rules nor the ISDS mechanism constrain any level of government from regulating in the public interest."
(And yet Canada has been subject to 35+ NAFTA investor-state claims since the deal came into force on Jan. 1, 1994. Sixty three per cent of those claims have involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management measures.)
"Regarding drug patents, the TPP affirms the World Trade Organization Doha Declaration on the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement and Public Health to ensure access to life-saving medicines in public health emergencies."
(And yet the TPP establishes for highly-profitable transnational pharmaceutical corporations a five-year minimum period of exclusive rights to sell expensive life-saving bioligics. In her comments on the TPP, the director-general of the World Health Organization has stated, "If these agreements open trade yet close the door to affordable medicines we have to ask the question: is this really progress at all.")
"With regards to bovine growth hormone (rBST), Health Canada has determined, in 1999, that rBST does not pose a health risk to humans. There is no scientific basis for restricting trade in milk or dairy products from trading partners that have approved rBST. ...All food products, both domestic and imported, must meet Canada’s robust health and safety regulation."
(And yet it's illegal in Canada to administer BGH to cows to boost their milk production, whereas in the United States there is no such restriction. The TPP opens up 3.25 per cent of the Canadian dairy market to milk imports that could be tainted with BGH. There is no plan to separate or label this milk. An Environics poll in July 2015 found that 87 per cent of Canadians were either very or somewhat concerned about the TPP lowering Canadian food safety and quality standards.)
If the Trudeau government were holding a genuine public consultation on the TPP, there would be the sense that our comments are being heard (not disregarded as is clearly happening with the responses from Global Affairs Canada), that our input might result in some changes to the deal (the government has said the deal cannot be changed, it's a yes or no proposition), and that the government would be transparent in telling us the overall balance of the comments they have been receiving (they've only stated "many feel the TPP presents significant opportunities, while others have concerns").
In your emails you might directly ask:
- Do you accept the findings of the Tufts University study that says the TPP will cost 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality in Canada?
- How would the ISDS provision in the TPP prevent an investor-state challenge similar to the one launched by a US company under NAFTA against Quebec's moratorium on fracking under the St. Lawrence River?
- How do you respond to the World Health Organization director-general's concerns about extended patents for drug companies?
- Will BGH-tainted milk entering Canada be labelled?
- How many emails have you received in total, how many have expressed concerns about the TPP?
To email the government about the TPP, send your questions and comments to TPP-PTP.firstname.lastname@example.org