North American fair trade activists put the spotlight on secretive international trade negotiations in Vancouver this weekend
Vancouver, BC – Negotiators from 11 Pacific Rim countries met quietly in Vancouver this weekend to set new investment rules within the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). No announcement of this “intersessional” on investment was made to the public or the media.
People in Canada first learned about this TPP ‘mini’ negotiation from an article in the Peruvian media Friday. It was later confirmed by iPolitics.ca with no other details and has since been acknowledged by the federal government in a brief statement concluding the intersessional talks.
“It’s long past time to end the silence on the TPP,” says Kristen Beifus of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. “It’s outrageous that this investor rights treaty is being developed behind closed doors. What they are negotiating will impact all of us, just as NAFTA has for 20 years, and we deserve to know what is being negotiated in our name.”
Activists from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, under the banner of the TPPxBorder network, gathered in Vancouver this weekend to challenge the TPP investment talks. They held an emergency teach-in at Greenpeace Vancouver offices on Saturday night and projected messages about the unacceptable secrecy in the TPP negotiations on downtown buildings (see photo).
On Sunday, the same groups protested the TPP outside the offices of Pacific Rim — a Canadian mining company that is suing El Salvador for $300 million under international investment rules that say corporate profits should be protected from community opposition to mining.
“The Pacific Rim case epitomizes everything that is wrong with investment treaties and investment chapters in corporate rights deals like the TPP — and why it was important to protest the intersessional TPP meeting in Vancouver,” says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The investor-state lawsuits are not decided by the courts but by unaccountable commercial arbitrators. Canada’s had enough of that through NAFTA. The last thing we need is to expand this across the Pacific to countries that can’t afford it.”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership involves 12 countries around the Pacific (Canada, US, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan) and 600 international corporations which also participate in the talks. In addition to new investor rights rules, the TPP aims to extend patents for brand-name pharmaceuticals thereby driving up drug prices, put new restrictions on and even criminalize routine Internet activities such as file-sharing, and poses a threat to environmental and public health laws.
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