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Council of Canadians objects to Canada’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations

Ottawa – The Council of Canadians has submitted a report to the federal government objecting to Canada’s entry into Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiations as part of a public consultation announced in December by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The organization views the TPP and other “next generation” free trade deals such as the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as simply reproducing a faulty global trade and investment regime that puts important public policies at risk for insignificant economic gains.

“The Council of Canadians is not opposed to trade or efforts to expand it through trade agreements. We do however join the many international voices calling for transparency in the TPP negotiations, and the creation of a new international trade and investment framework that treats quality of life, the creation of good jobs, poverty eradication and ecological sustainability as first principles – not potential barriers to trade as they are considered under the current regime,” says the report submitted this week.

“To that end, we object to Canada entering into the TPP negotiations, which appear to reinforce the status-quo ideology that says governments should rarely if ever intervene in markets. In fact, the TPP would reproduce the worst parts of Canada’s existing free trade agreements while further shielding corporate activity from needed regulatory and public policy reforms.”

The Council of Canadians’ submission on the TPP lists what it considers should be core conditions of Canadian participation in any free trade negotiation, including: full transparency and public access to negotiating texts; broad protections for all public services; commitments to the highest labour standards; the primacy of ecological sustainability, and; that there be no investor-state dispute resolution mechanism giving corporations free reign to challenge public health, environmental and social policies that interfere with their profits.

The organization notes that Canada’s entry into TPP negotiations will be conditional on the approval of the countries already negotiating.

“Speculation in the media suggests Canada will be required to make certain promises to lower protections for certain agricultural producers. This is in a context of heightened attacks in the media on Canada’s functioning and non-trade distorting supply management systems for dairy, eggs and poultry,” says the report. “Supply management, which guarantees fair wages and stable prices for farmers in non-exporting sectors, is too valuable to Canada to sacrifice on a negotiating table with little to offer on the other side.”

The Council of Canadians explains that the value of the TPP to any of the participating countries is meagre, amounting to an average one-shot boost to national GDPs of about 1 per cent.  This underwhelming statistic undermines statements from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) suggesting the TPP is about supporting U.S. jobs. The U.S. and Canadian experience with free trade agreements is that they tend to widen trade deficits even with marginal economies while displacing high-paying manufacturing and other jobs at home.

“We encourage the Canadian government to stand down from negotiating TPP- and CETA-like bilateral and regional free trade agreements, which are of modest to insignificant economic value to the country and which put important environmental, social and job-creation policies at risk at home and abroad.

Read the report here.

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