What was the deal that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to yesterday in Vietnam just before midnight local time?
On Friday, a Global Affairs media release noted, “[International Trade Minister François-Philippe] Champagne welcomed the progress made on the margins of the APEC Trade Ministerial Meeting on a framework for a new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. Environment and labour rights will form crucial pillars of a new agreement and will be subject to dispute settlement mechanisms. However there still are a number of issues that remain outstanding for Canada.”
On Saturday, a draft statement from Canada and ten other countries stated, “Ministers are pleased to announce that they have agreed on the core elements of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Now, The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada and 10 other countries have reached an agreement on the ‘core elements’ of a new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but some contentious areas – including auto rules and cultural protections – have been set aside for further negotiations.”
That article adds, “The deal announced Friday removed 20 sections of the original TPP deal, including provisions related to pharmaceutical products, patent protection, copyright and intellectual property. Another section lists four categories as areas where ‘substantial progress was made but consensus must be achieved before signing’: the treatment of state-owned enterprises, services and investment, dispute settlement and culture. A Canadian government official said rules related to the auto sector continue to be part of the TPP but will be the subject of a ‘work plan’ to reach an agreement on details.”
The Canadian Press adds, “Some media reports called the Saturday communique a major breakthrough, but a Canadian trade official reiterated only that some progress had been achieved.” This morning, Trudeau commented, “[There is] still more important work to be done [on the TPP].”
The Globe and Mail’s Chief Political Writer Campbell Clark comments, “Canada is sweating through NAFTA negotiations in which Mr. Trump’s administration wants to raise the proportion of North American content in a vehicle before it can be shipped into the U.S. market duty-free. Negotiating lower regional-content rules in the TPP may only complicate that. So Canada insisted that provisions about autos, far from being agreed upon, be put into a ‘work plan’ for renegotiation, guided by language that indicates Canada wants concessions from Japan.”
Clark adds, “There are political reasons why Mr. Trudeau’s desire for a new TPP has cooled. It’s one thing to embrace trade deals, but another to rile the auto sector, dairy farmers, the political left and Quebec. …The other TPP leaders wanted a symbol of commitment [a signing ceremony], but Mr. Trudeau has a nervous industry, touchy constituencies and a fragile NAFTA to worry about – good reasons not to go all in.”
And a CBC article cautions, “Despite its rejection of the Pacific Rim pact, U.S. negotiators have brought significant chunks of TPP text to the NAFTA renegotiations as a template to advance progress. …[Furthermore] the U.S. wants higher American content in automobiles and wants to do away with Canada’s supply management system in agriculture.”
The Council of Canadians has long opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We highlighted that TPP 1.0 would have meant the loss of 58,000 jobs in Canada, increased income inequality, resulted in higher pharmaceutical drug costs, contained the controversial investor-state dispute settlement provision, and would have violated Indigenous rights.
It is good news that the provisions related to pharmaceutical products reportedly have been removed from the TPP-11, but worrisome that “substantial progress” was reportedly made on services and investment and dispute settlement (and that according to Champagne’s media release that labour and environmental protections would be “subject to dispute settlement mechanisms”). Due to the lack of transparency in these talks, the implications of the TPP-11 on water services and water protection remain a concern.
And while Trudeau’s statement released today says the deal would “benefit” Indigenous Peoples, media reports have noted that he has only called for provisions on the environment, labour rights and gender equality in the TPP-11. He has not called for an Indigenous rights chapter in the TPP-11 as he has suggested for NAFTA 2.0. Nor has he in either case insisted that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), notably the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), must be enshrined and protected within any ‘free trade’ deal.
In October 2015, Trudeau stated, “The Harper Conservatives have failed to be transparent through the entirety of the [TPP] negotiations – especially in regards to what Canada is conceding in order to be accepted into this partnership. The government has an obligation to be open and honest about the negotiation process, and immediately share all the details of any agreement.”
The Liberals have neither been “transparent” nor “open and honest” about the negotiation process for the TPP-11.