Trade Justice Network says quick moves on CPTPP signals Liberals’ abandonment of progressive trade

The Trudeau government is forcing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) through the House of Commons quickly without further public input, and after the deal has been widely denounced by Canadians. 

The CPTPP passed second reading in the House of Commons last week. Labour, environmental and civil society groups have widely criticized the deal.

The Trade Justice Network, a large group of civil society organizations that promotes fair trade, says “It is well documented that the CPTPP stands to threaten workers’ rights, farmer livelihoods, environmental protection, Indigenous sovereignty, public services and governments’ right to regulate, while causing job losses in Canadian manufacturing and wage stagnation throughout the economy. Canadians were shocked to see the Trudeau government sign the CPTPP, which, despite minimal changes and a new name, remains nearly identical to the TPP deal negotiated by the former Harper government.”

The network says, “This move is particularly disappointing given the promise to pursue a Progressive Trade Agenda. Former trade ministers Freeland and Champagne, along with Prime Minister Trudeau, publicly stated their government’s commitment to promote labour rights, gender equality, Indigenous rights, environmental sustainability, needs of small and medium-sized enterprises, and the Canadian public interest in its negotiation of trade deals. Such a rethinking of the trade model is precisely what civil society has long been calling for.”

The CPTPP undermines these very rights and values. Moreover, the language and principles of “progressive trade” were missing altogether in the mandate letter to new trade Minister Carr, suggesting a shift away from a more inclusive and sustainable approach to trade.

The fact that CPTPP implementation legislation was hurried through the legislature within two days of the House of Commons resuming is also illustrative. It did not allow space for comprehensive debate and public scrutiny.

The TJN states: “Canadians have overwhelmingly opposed the (CP)TPP. In August 2017, an Access to Information request by the Council of Canadians revealed that over 99 per cent of Canadians who participated in Global Affairs’ online consultation on the TPP opposed the deal. Elected officials, therefore, do not have a mandate from Canadians to implement this trade and investment agreement.”

According to the TJN, these CPTPP developments are “particularly concerning against the backdrop of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation. While Canada allegedly stands up for workers, farmers and the Canadian public interest in the NAFTA talks, it has made significant concessions in these same areas in the CPTPP. Not only may this inconsistent approach jeopardize Canadian priorities in the NAFTA talks, but it signals the total abandoning of ‘progressive trade’ principles.”