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What did the Trudeau government just agree to in the new Trans-Pacific Partnership?

Trudeau announces the CPTPP at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in Davos today that a ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)’, had been been finalized after two days of talks in Tokyo, Japan.

The Council of Canadians decries the lack of public accountability in the negotiation of this deal, the potential impacts this agreement will have on jobs, our supply management system and the automobile sector, as well as the deal’s weak language on environmental and labour protections.

Given the text of the agreement and its side letters have not been released, what can we glean from media reports?

1- Culture: Kyodo News reports, “Representatives [at the TPP talks in Tokyo] were cautious about Canada’s request to restrict foreign films — a bid to protect its French-speaking culture — as the move could mean revising the pact’s agreement on trade liberalization. It was decided that the issue will be worked out in the form of [legally-binding] side letters, separate from the deal’s main text, [Japan’s TPP minister Toshimitsu] Motegi said.”

2- Autos: The Canadian Press reports, “The autos component risks being more controversial. In a sector considered key to the deal, Canada managed to get a bilateral arrangement with Japan to resolve non-tariff barriers, including a binding dispute settlement mechanism, according to an official. The official said the side agreement brings into force key commitments made by Japan to Canada and the U.S. in the original deal, but which were lost when the U.S. pulled out.” The Globe and Mail adds, “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.”

3- Investor-State Dispute Settlement: The New Zealand Herald notes, “[Stephen Jacobi, executive director of the New Zealand International Business Forum] said the deal reached in Tokyo [suspends] aspects of the contentious investor state dispute settlement (ISDS).” Greater clarity is needed on the reach of this provision. As noted above, a binding dispute settlement mechanism would apply to the auto chapter.

4- Pharmaceuticals: The Globe and Mail notes, “[The Canadian government said it has obtained the] suspension of changes to intellectual property rules that would have lengthened patent protection for cutting-edge ‘biologics’ pharmaceuticals.” A Government of Canada backgrounder released today says, “Regarding intellectual property, Parties agreed to suspend TPP obligations on patent term adjustment. This suspension required Parties to adjust the patent term to compensate for ‘unreasonable’ patent office delays, as well as on patent term restoration for marketing approval delays.”

5- Dairy: The Globe and Mail also notes, “The Dairy Farmers of Canada decried the agreement, pointing out that the new accord grants the same level of tariff-free access to this country’s dairy market that Canada agreed to in 2015 when the United States was still part of TPP negotiations. Back then, the concession amounted to 3.25 per cent of domestic production.” The original deal would have displaced about 250 million litres of milk produced in Canada on an annual basis.

6- Indigenous rights: There does not appear to be an Indigenous rights chapter as now proposed (even symbolically) for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Radio Waatea reports, “[The CPTPP] drew opposition from Maori because of fears it could hamper the government’s ability to settle claims on issues like intellectual property rights.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz stated that the original TPP threatened Indigenous land rights.

7- Labour rights and coal: Kyodo News reports, “Vietnam has demanded exemption from trade sanctions that can be imposed by other countries when laborers’ rights are not protected, while Malaysia and Brunei have sought continued preferential treatment for the state-owned enterprise and coal industry, respectively. TPP negotiators sorted out the requests by Malaysia and Brunei by deciding to suspend the implementation of the provisions. Regarding Vietnam’s request, the negotiators agreed to deal with it also by a separate document, [according to Japan’s TPP minister].”

8- Other areas: The Straits Times reports, “Commitments to liberalise in key areas such as textiles, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, competition, state-owned enterprises and small- and medium-sized enterprises, labour, and dispute settlement, are still intact. But the ministers also endorsed the List of Suspended Provisions. These provisions were part of the original TPP text. They suspended 20 provisions from chapters on trade facilitation, investment, services, public procurement, intellectual property rights, environment and transparency.”

9- Preamble: The Government of Canada backgrounder on the CPTPP notes, “Canada also secured a new preamble that includes important progressive elements. These include reaffirming our right to regulate in the public interest; promoting labour rights, environmental protection and conservation, preserving cultural identity and diversity, promoting corporate social responsibility, gender equality and Indigenous rights.” Preamble language is less likely to be enforceable than text in the main body of the deal.

The deal is now scheduled to be signed on March 8 in Chile.

Responses to today’s announcement have also been issued by the Canadian Labour Congress, Unifor and the New Democratic Party.