Citizen Action Monitor

Public review of TPP is badly needed, but will a meaningful process be forthcoming from Team Trudeau?

PM has so far been anything but clear about what a public review might look like.

No 1561 Posted by fw, January 10, 2016

“In truth, the TPP cannot be called progressive in any universe. It is a regressive last-century free trade agreement that will entrench the market power of the largest investors, exporters, and patent and copyright holders at the expense of consumers and citizens…. Obviously, a public review is badly needed. The TPP was concluded in the dying days of a ‘caretaker’ government desperate to shake up a faltering election campaign. Constitutional experts held that this maneuvering could only pass muster if a new federal government was genuinely able to reverse Conservatives death-bed commitments. But history, and U.S. insistence the deal must be accepted ‘as negotiated,’ may force us to temper our expectations about whether a meaningful process is forthcoming.” Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair, CCPA Monitor

Stuart Trew, senior editor of the Monitor, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and Scott Sinclair, director of CCPA’s trade and investment research project, worry that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty may not receive the quality public review it deserves. PM Trudeau, who repeatedly promises an “open and transparent” Liberal Government, has so far been anything but open and transparent about the TPP review process. “A wrong step on this early test for the Trudeau regime could be damaging to the new government”, warn the authors.

Below is a repost of their TPP analysis with added subheadings. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to download the CCPA’s Monitor. The article is on page 5; unfortunately, neither this article nor the Monitor can be read online.

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TPP Needs Real Change by Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair, Monitor, January/February, 2016

Obama wrapped TPP in hyped, pro-Liberal values following November 2015 meeting with Trudeau

After his first formal meeting with Canada’s new prime minister at the end of November, U’S. President Barack Obama made either a bold or banal observation about how Prime Minister Trudeau will handle the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deal (TPP), concluded in early October, in the middle of an election campaign, by a party that now finds itself on the Opposition benches.

“We are both soon to be signatories to the TPP agreement,” Obama told reporters in Manila. “I know Justin has to agree with what’s happened, but we think that after that process has taken place, Canada, the United States and the other countries that are here can establish the high-standards agreement that protects labour, protects the environment, protects the kind of high value–added goods and services that we both excel in.”

Obama’s words were carefully chosen to reflect the values in the Liberal platform—good for the Earth, good for the middle class, good for workers—but also to counter solid opposition to the TPP among Democratic supporters (from U.S. labour and environmental movements) who know better.

TPP can no longer be called ‘progressive’; it’s a regressive last-century deal favouring powerful elites

In truth, the TPP cannot be called progressive in any universe. It is a regressive last-century free trade agreement that will entrench the market power of the largest investors, exporters, and patent and copyright holders at the expense of consumers and citizens. “Climate change” is not mentioned once in its 6,000+ pages. The environmental and labour chapters will be almost impossible to enforce.

US Trade Rep brands TPP as a “Made in America” deal

As if there was any doubt who really benefits from the TPP, the United States Trade Representative has branded it a “Made in America” deal. Made, that is, by and for U.S. corporate interests. Even the outgoing Harper government admitted damage to Canadian interests by offering compensation packages for the auto and dairy sectors for the losses they are expected to suffer. We can also look forward to growth hormones in our milk thanks to a Canada-U.S. side-deal on the eventual mutual recognition of standards for dairy products.

TPP’s intellectual property rights will turn Canada into a “permanent underclass” in tech innovation, says former CEO

Former Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie fears the TPP’s intellectual property rights chapter will cost the Canadian economy billions, turning the country into a “permanent underclass” when it comes to tech innovation. Pharmacare and access-to-medicine advocates worry new patent rules will lock in already exorbitant prices paid for prescription drugs in Canada and make life-saving medicine unaffordable in other TPP countries like Vietnam and Malaysia.

A public review is badly needed, but will a meaningful process be forthcoming?

Obviously, a public review is badly needed. The TPP was concluded in the dying days of a “caretaker” government desperate to shake up a faltering election campaign. Constitutional experts held that this maneuvering could only pass muster if a new federal government was genuinely able to reverse Conservatives death-bed commitments. But history, and U.S. insistence the deal must be accepted “as negotiated,” may force us to temper our expectations about whether a meaningful process is forthcoming.

PM Trudeau has so far been anything but clear about what a public review might look like

For example, despite positive comments from Canada’s new trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, that it is “not my job right now to convince anybody TPP is good,” there has been no clear indication about what a public review might look like beyond parliamentary hearings. The government is running out of time to perform a meaningful consultation on the TPP given Obama’s stated intention to sign the final deal in New Zealand at the beginning of February.

In the throne speech, the government was keen to portray itself as breaking from the Conservative regime’s heavy-handed and closed approach. It would not bode well for the openness agenda if Canada bows to U.S. pressure and signs the TPP while the pubic consultation process has barely started. This would merely continue the Harper government’s practice of tabling international agreements in Parliament prior to ratification, which remains the exclusive prerogative of cabinet.

Typically, legislation is introduced in the House of Commons that would implement a specific trade agreement or investment treaty, followed by a second-reading debate where MPs have an opportunity to convince each other that it’s a good or bad deal. The ratifying legislation then heads to trade committee where witnesses are called to testify on the specifics of the deal. We have both appeared before parliamentary committees during this stage to challenge some of the worst aspects of Canada’s recent trade agreements. Things like investor–state dispute settlement provisions, which create a private court system for investors to challenge public policy decisions, or the need to create allowances for public procurement as a job-creation and development tool for local and provincial governments.

During hearings into the Canada–EU trade deal, we urged the government to reject long protections for Big Pharma and copyright holders that result in higher costs for consumers, and to fully exclude public services from the reach of chapters in CETA designed to force open certain sectors or activities to private profitmaking. Both of these concerns apply equally to the TPP.

Under Harper, the trade committee review process was rigged

In the Harper majority years, although opposition parties tried their best to get critical witnesses before the trade committee, their concerns would be purged from the official report. In the end, the record would show near unanimous support for a given trade deal, with high praise from a range of business lobbies. A final third-reading vote in Parliament, Senate endorsement and royal assent made the deal final for perpetuity.

Will the Liberal government do better? It’s hard to tell.

Can we expect more from the newly elected Liberal government? It’s still hard to tell. We should definitely ask for a better review process, especially for an agreement as imposing as the TPP. So what might that process look like? An agreement that purports to set binding rules for regulating commerce in the 21st century deserves public hearings across the country. Showing his commitment to collaborative policy-making, Trudeau invited the provinces to join him in Paris for this year’s international climate talks. He could equally invite them to help him co-ordinate national consultations on the TPP. The two issues are even related, given the TPP may include unanticipated new restrictions on what the provinces and federal government can do to meet Canada’s obligations to reduce carbon emissions, or to help us transition off fossil fuels.

All eyes are on Trudeau. A misstep could be damaging

Trudeau would not lose any stature internationally or domestically by informing TPP partner countries that Canada cannot sign or be bound by the agreement as negotiated until our domestic review is completed, and that public input could result in Canadian demands for changes. The Malaysian government has suggested ratification is not guaranteed, and members of the U.S. Congress continue to bicker about whether it goes far enough or too far in areas like patent protections for biologic drugs. Popular support for the TPP is not as high at home as the former government or business groups probably expected. A wrong step on this early test for the Trudeau regime could be damaging to the new government.

SEE ALSO

Reviewing the TPP: Trudeau’s best-case scenario by Stuart Trew and Scott Sinclair, rabble.ca, October 29, 2015 – Published shortly after the Liberal’s election victory, this piece covers much the same ground as the above post.

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