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Vancouver-Burnaby & Delta-Richmond chapters attend TPP “consultation” in Vancouver

The TPP event at the Liu Institute on Tuesday. Twitter photo by Canada Trade.

The TPP event at the Liu Institute on Tuesday. Twitter photo by Canada Trade.

The Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby and Delta-Richmond chapters were present for a panel discussion yesterday with Chrystia Freeland, the federal minister of trade, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As noted in the Liu Institute for Global Issues’ outreach for the event in Vancouver, this was “part of a national consultation tour” by the minister on the TPP.

Chapter activist Penny Tilby tells us that the minister did not provide much real content in her speech, but rather indicated that she would be listening to the speakers on the panel. Freeland has previously stated, “Right now, we’re very much in listening mode.” The panelists in Vancouver were John Ries, a professor of business economics at the Sauder School of Business, Matilde Bombardini, a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics, along with moderator Yves Tiberghien, director of the Institute of Asian Research. Unfortunately, as Tilby notes, “All the panelists minimized the impact of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision and made little or no reference to the impact on our democracy.” Nor did Freeland appear to see ISDS as a major issue.

Freeland, as she has previously noted in the media, indicated that when Canada signs the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Feb. 4 in New Zealand that this does not mean it has been ratified by Canada. In Dec., the minister stated, “Not signing at this stage would have very significant consequences … we would lose our status as one of the original TPP signatories and that would be giving up some significant privileges”. Earlier this week, she said, “Signing is a technical step – the agreement does not come into force upon signing. The real issue now ahead of all the 12 TPP countries is ratification.”

Freeland also reiterated in Vancouver that it would be a two-year process to ratify the TPP. This is consistent with news reports from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Nov. 2015 that noted, “Leaders [from the twelve TPP countries] agreed on a two-year period for each country’s parliament to approve the deal, meaning it will likely come into force in 2018.”

At the Vancouver event, Freeland also stated that there will be a full parliamentary debate and national consultation with Canadians on the issue, and that ratification in the United States and Japan along with four other countries was essential for the TPP to move forward. Freeland has commented, “The deal comes into forces if six countries ratify, including Japan and the United States, and what we have committed to is a full Parliamentary debate ahead of ratification.” She has also recently stated more specifically, “We will ask the trade committee, when the house returns from its winter recess, to take a take a serious study of the TPP as well.”

The Council of Canadians has argued that the federal government’s promised consultation on the TPP should include a full public review including a comprehensive and independent analysis of the TPP text by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (that would assess the deal’s impact on human rights, health, employment, environment and democracy), public hearings in each province and territory, and separate and meaningful consultations with First Nations. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has highlighted that, “[Trudeau should also inform] TPP partner countries Canada cannot be bound by the agreement as negotiated, and that public input could result in Canadian demands for changes.”

The Globe and Mail editorial board has additionally commented, “If Freeland and her party are serious about making sure Canadians understand its implications, they will have to give Parliamentary committees the time and resources to go over it section by section and hear testimony from neutral experts. Parliament will have to report back to Canadians in plain language about what they are getting and what they are giving up. And then the government will have to make an argument for ratification, or demand further negotiations to protect Canada’s interests.”

But the TPP consultations to date have been extremely limited and non-governmental organizations have not been included in them, nor have First Nations been consulted. Additionally, a not-widely publicized Government of Canada web-page has posted the line, “Canadians are invited to visit this page frequently for consultations activities and regular updates. You can also send your comments at any time via email: TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca.” iPolitics writer BJ Siekierski notes, “The Global Affairs Canada website provides an email address and invites comments from the public on TPP, but doesn’t give a deadline or say what it plans to do with them.”

Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer Harjap Grewal has stated, “Consulting with academics and industry representatives is a first step, but it’s not enough. What about First Nations, environmental groups and labour organizations? What about ordinary people? The TPP is a far-reaching deal, and the minister’s consultations need to be equally far-reaching. An independent analysis of the agreement would provide people with unbiased information about the potential consequences of the TPP. It would allow them to participate in a meaningful public consultation process to decide whether this deal is in the public interest or just in corporations’ interests.”

While the Trudeau government’s web-page outreach hardly qualifies as a consultation process, the Council of Canadians does encourage you, as our Chilliwack chapter has already done, to send your comments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca.

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

Photo: The TPP event at the Liu Institute on Tuesday. Twitter photo by Canada Trade.