Saturday, February 06, 2016

Let The Debate Begin


Last week, Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans Pacific Partnership. While doing so, she maintained that her signature was in no way her government's ratification of the accord. There would be, she said, extensive public consultation and debate before the Liberals made that decision.

Murray Dobbin writes that, if history is any guide, the consultation will be shallow and the debate short lived:

For many of us who have dealt in the past with the trade bureaucrats promoting these investment protection agreements, it is easy enough to suspect that Freeland is being deliberately misinformed by her own staff. There is no doubt that the Trudeau government is eager to portray itself as open to persuasion on the TPP. To bolster the position that they still might say no, the government has engaged in a flurry of consultations across the country and has made a point of inviting ordinary concerned citizens to send in questions and criticisms to Global Affairs Canada. Sounds good so far. But it is the execution that raises serious questions about how genuine the consultation will be.

First, the consultations reveal that the vast majority have been with groups supportive of these agreements: provincial government ministers, business groups, industry reps, universities, etc. Of 74 such meetings (as of Jan. 31) there have been just a handful with "students" (but no student council representatives who have actually studied the TPP) and a couple with labour -- the CLC and Unifor. There have been literally no meetings with NGOs that have actually taken the time to closely examine the TPP -- not the Council of Canadians, not the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, not any First Nations (whose solemn agreements with governments can be trumped by ISDS), nor any environmental groups.

The real bone of contention has always been the Investor Dispute Settlement Mechanism. And, again, if history is any guide, things do not look good:

Since NAFTA came into effect on January 1, 1994 it has been subjected to over 35 NAFTA investor-state claims. Nearly two-thirds of these have involved challenges to environmental protection or resource management. Canada has already paid out over $170 million in damages in six cases (lost or settled) and abandoned most of the "offending" legislation and regulations. We currently face additional corporate challenges totalling over $6 billion in potential penalties for NAFTA "violations" such as the Quebec government's decision to ban fracking under the St. Lawrence River.

It's pretty clear that these trade agreements are written to favour large countries with large economies -- specifically, the United States. It appears that the bureaucrats in Global Affairs Canada do not recognize that fact. But, if there is a clear rejection of the TPP among Canadians citizens then, perhaps, Canada will not ratify the agreement. Perhaps.

In any case, let the debate begin.


Hugh said...

Premier Christy Clark thinks the TPP is great. So did the former PM.

Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz thinks TPP is bad. So do Michael Geist, Murray Dobbin and Jim Balsillie of RIM.

TPP has ISDS, which would allow foreign corporations to sue Canada over laws they feel limit their profits.

Like what TransCanada is doing to the US, over the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline.

Dump this POS deal, it's a no-brainer.

Owen Gray said...

I'm with Stiglitz, Geist and Balsillie on this one, Hugh. Those who are for the deal -- at least the ones you named -- are whistling into the wind.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

If they are serious about consulting with Canadians Owen, a good start would be making the deal public. Let us read it for ourselves. I wonder if they do ratify and keep in the ISDS if we can sue them for the TPP being unconstitutional.

Owen Gray said...

The whole problem with the deal was that it was negotiated in secret, Pam. Obviously, there are things in it the negotiators knew wouldn't pass public muster.

Anonymous said...

What will happen if the TPP is ratified by Canada is more capitulation by the federal government to corporate entities (primarily foreign) with no benefit to Canada or its citizens.

Games used by corporations under the NAFTA agreement are already exploiting provincial governments. One that particularly galls me is the cop-out by Harper in the Abitibi Bowwater deal. Abitibi filed for bankruptcy in Newfoundland and Danny Williams proceeded in expropriating water and forest rights. The purposes of those provincial rights to Aabitibi was to maintain forest operations in the province (a pulpmill, sawmills and logging operations). Harper capitulated without a second thought and settled out of court, and Newfoundland lost its right to its own assets. If TPP proceeds these corporate scams will escalate.

Owen Gray said...

There is ample evidence, Anon, that -- in the final analysis -- the public interest is subordinated to corporate interests. We are fools if we don't see this recurring pattern.

Steve said...

we learned nothing from the NAFTA disaster?

Owen Gray said...

It appears that we haven't, Steve -- even after twenty-five years.

Anonymous said...

Liberal and Conservative elites in government, business and the media still promote the lie that NAFTA has been good for Canada. There are many suckers in Canada who foolishly believe them.

Owen Gray said...

That myth still lives on, Anon. We would hate to admit that we made a mistake.