Justin Trudeau will be tested on many fronts. One of the most important fronts is international trade -- where the TPP has just landed in his lap. Tom Walkom writes:
Released Thursday, the final text confirms most critics’ fears.
Certain kinds of new-generation prescription pharmaceuticals will receive enhanced patent protection. That means they will become more expensive — both for individuals and provincial drug plans.“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad deal for medicine,” said the aid group Doctors Without Borders.Governments will find it harder to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens. If, for instance, a Canadian credit card company wants to store electronic information in cheaper data banks abroad, governments will be able to intervene only if they can prove a “legitimate policy objective.”The dispute settlement system that already allows American and Mexican companies to challenge Canadian environmental and other laws before special trade arbitrators has been expanded to include all nations in the TPP.The new pact will deviate from the existing North American Free Trade Agreement in that hearings held under this system will now be open to the public — unless the arbitrators decide otherwise.Oh yes. And the threshold for reviewing foreign takeovers of Canadian companies has been raised from $600 million to $1.5 billion.But the most immediate casualty of the new deal is the Canadian auto industry. Under NAFTA, only auto parts containing 60 per cent North American content could move duty-free between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.Earlier this fall, the Harper government admitted that the TPP would reduce this local content threshold to 40 per cent. The final text shows that for some crucial auto parts, the new threshold is even lower — 35 per cent.What this means in practice is that auto makers operating within the TPP will be able to obtain up to 65 per cent of their parts outside the trade bloc — from cheap-labour countries like Thailand.
Clearly, the TPP is meant to enshrine neo-liberalism's global juggernaut. Put bluntly, it threatens the kind of democracy Trudeau has been preaching.
It will not be easy to renegotiate the pact. It will not be easy to walk away from it. But it would be foolish to reject either option.