This, stressed International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, “essentially means Canada can keep its spot at the bargaining table.” 1
Signing does not equal ratifying.... Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made. 1
Due to public pressure, Freeland has also said that she’s “requested a thorough, transparent study of the agreement by parliamentary committee.” 1
So then, apparently, Canadians may still have the chance to be heard. But this promise comes far too late. Freeland has already confirmed that any renegotiation is not possible, regardless of serious concerns raised by Canadians. 2
The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it's important to understand that it's a decision of yes or no. 2
Faced with an ultimatum such as this, Canadians have important issues to consider. Which aspects of the trade deal can Canadians just not live with? Why are so many Canadians objecting to the risky TPP? Here are 31 good reasons.
1. Investor-State Disputes
Other trade agreements have already shown us that foreign investor protections result in legal claims on governments, and consequently, enormous transfers away from public coffers. 3 This one is no different. There is a lot wrong with the way the TPP handles disagreements between corporations and governments. At least six key issues stand out:
- In order to avoid expensive claims, governments deal with foreign investors behind closed doors. 3
- Allowing such claims gives an unfair advantage to foreign investors when they bid on contracts. As Osgoode Hall Law School professor Gus Van Harten points out, “domestic companies have to live with the terms of their contracts.” 3
- Foreign investors could “bring a claim under both the TPP and NAFTA, making a different argument under each and getting compensation under either.” 3
- Claims are arbitrated by for-profit lawyers paid by the day or by the hour. These arbitrators have the power to decide what sovereign states can do. They can also choose the amount of public money awarded to successful claimants, and there is no cap. Moreover, claims can only be made by foreign investors. This means that arbitrators have an interest in encouraging more claims by siding with foreign investors. 3
- Not only are these claims expensive, but they hinder governments’ abilities to create the “policies needed to address global warming” as these are usually “subject to suits brought before international investment tribunals.” 4
- The TPP doesn’t require foreign investors to “respect basic labour, environmental, and anti-corruption standards,” 3 which puts Canadian citizens at risk in many aspects of their daily lives, including at work and as consumers.
But ultimately, says Brent Patterson of the Council of Canadians:
However 'reformed,' its investor-state dispute settlement provision is still a preferred arbitration system for transnational corporations to challenge democratically-elected national governments and be paid compensation if public interest legislation is passed that affect future corporate profits. 7
2. Corporate Favouritism
So far, it all seems unfair, doesn’t it? It’s a risky TPP deal for Canadians and the citizens of the other signatory countries, especially since it was negotiated away from public scrutiny. What’s more, of the 566 TPP negotiators, only 71 represented the labour movement while 306 were representatives of private industry, and another 174 were from trade associations. 8
As it turns out, the TPP is a piece of “legislation written by corporations, for corporations.” 8
More importantly, what were corporations seeking to gain? Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, told Democracy Now! that this economic treaty isn’t about trade:
Only five of the 29 chapters are about traditional trade. The others are about regulating the Internet... It's about regulating labour, what labour conditions can be applied, regulating whether you can favour local industry, regulating the hospital healthcare system, privatization of hospitals. So, essentially, every aspect of the modern economy, even banking services, are in the TPP. 9
3. Economic Impacts
So if the TPP isn’t really about trade, will it still affect the economy? A study from researchers at the UN and Tufts University reveals that it will, but not in the way Canadians expect. “Canada can expect a mere 0.28% increase to GDP growth — effectively zero change — over the next ten years if the TPP is implemented.” 10
The situation is just as bleak for workers. In fact, labour representatives across the country are concerned. For instance, Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said the TPP “would cost Canada thousands of jobs in the auto sector and pave the way for foreign firms to bring their own workers to Canada rather than hiring locals.” 11
Furthermore, the UN / Tufts study suggests that “ratifying the deal will lead to 58,000 net job losses in Canada over the next ten years.” 10
“In other words,” says Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, a trade and energy researcher for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “the TPP won’t grow the Canadian economy but it will hurt workers, who will see their share of the economic pie shrink by 0.86% under the deal.” 10
5. Brand Name Medical Drugs
Canadians can expect things to get worse as the TPP causes the cost of medical drugs to soar due to extended copyrights on brand name drugs. 8
Likewise, “Doctors Without Borders has raised the alarm on […] 12 years of ‘data exclusivity’ for vaccines and drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and multiple sclerosis which will block government regulatory authorities from allowing price-lowering generic competitors to enter the market with previously generated clinical data.” 12
6. Biologic Pharmaceuticals
It doesn’t end there. Canadians can look forward to even higher pharmacare costs, because the push for “extended patent protection was not just for traditional drugs,” but also for “new biotech-derived drugs known as biologics,” clarifies Paul Christopher Webster in a Globe and Mail Report on Business article summarized by the Council of Canadians. 13
U.K.-based analyst Alan Sheppard warns that this surge in innovation would lead to unsustainable medical budgets, and that access to generic drugs will be essential. 13
7. Seed Patents
Canadians will have a hard time buying healthy food to eat, too. Under the TPP, Canada will be forced to sign a treaty that “guarantees corporations the ‘right’ to patent every plant species and prohibits farmers from exchanging these seeds.” 14
Even worse, “corporations are able to charge royalties on non-patented seed varieties… Furthermore, farmers are unable to save, store, or replant un-patented seeds without permission from the corporation… [These] new royalty payments and restrictions on access to seed could drive up costs for farmers.” 15
Not only is seed sovereignty, or “the ability for farmers to save, breed, and exchange seeds,” 15 at risk. The TPP strikes a blow aimed at the movement against genetic modification of food plants, since the deal “opens the door for corporations to challenge public oversight of biotechnology.” 14
Finding more and more GMOs and pesticides in our food supply seems inevitable if Canada signs this risky, risky TPP. Would the corporations the deal protects also be able to prevent proper labelling measures?
8. Food Safety
Indeed, there’s a good chance that movements to implement measures to safeguard public health will be greatly weakened by the TPP, since “food safety standards that offer a greater level of consumer protection than international standards […] could be judged as illegal trade barriers.” 15
According to the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, “The dominant position of larger agribusiness corporations is such that these actors have acquired, in effect, a veto power in the political system.” 16
Moreover, food safety regulators “face a steep burden of proof to show that their regulations are the least trade-restrictive rules possible, a burden likely to discourage future, more stringent food safety regulations.” 15
9. Food Sovereignty
If that’s not bad enough, the TPP could also “increase corporate power through consolidation,” 15 ultimately leading to “the loss of national control in the food system.” 15 In consequence, “the ability of Canada to define and control its national food systems,” 14 a concept known as food sovereignty, would be reduced.
Consolidated markets can lead to the concentration of power among the few firms that dominate the market in which they operate, [thereby allowing] large firms 'privileged access to information, to capital, and to political power, all of which help to limit competition by creating barriers to entry' for other, smaller firms. 15
Unfortunately, this risky TPP deal “may leave little room for small firms that make only mild contributions to the GDP but that provide crucial sources of rural employment and social capital.” 15
10. Agricultural Supply Management
In Canada, the beef, pork, grain, poultry, dairy, and egg production industries are all regulated by a supply management system which greatly restricts the importation of foreign products. Through the TPP, “Canada conceded an additional 3.25% of its dairy market to imports.” 17
This means that the country’s dairy farmers now “face the prospect of cheaper foreign competition and the gradual erosion of prices paid by the large food companies that make cheese, butter, and milk.” 18
In an effort to soften the blow to dairy, chicken, and egg farmers, who are expected to suffer most from the TPP, “the deal is accompanied by $4.3-billion in federal subsidies […] including $2.4-billion intended to cover lost income from the TPP and an expected trade deal with Europe, and $1.5-billion to compensate farmers for loss in value of their business if they exit and sell their quotas.” 18
Why would Canada want to make a trade deal for which it has to pay compensation? These policies do not seem sound.
11. Dairy Imports
The most concerning aspect of the TPP’s effect on Canada’s dairy market is perhaps the “prospect of fluid milk crossing the border from the U.S.” 17
Currently, the administration of bovine growth hormone (rBST) to dairy cows isn’t legal in Canada, but that isn’t the case in the States. Bovine growth hormone was banned by Health Canada because of animal welfare concerns. 19 But as Green Party Leader Elizabeth May justly notes:
We really do not know the effects of this hormone on humans, which is one of the reasons why Europe has already banned rBST. The International Agency for Research in Cancer has concerns that rBST increases cancer in humans. 19
Disconcertingly, “no new certification or inspection regime appears set to screen milk destined for import into Canada. It’s also unclear whether U.S. milk would be segregated at Canadian processing facilities, or simply mixed with Canadian product.” 17
12. Environmental Regulations
The Environmental chapter of the TPP “gives corporations the ability to sue governments — domestic and foreign — for enacting public interest legislation that may reduce corporate profits, […] including environmental regulations and industrial efficiency standards.” 8
For example, the TPP “includes provisions that could prevent regulators from auditing corporate computer source codes similar to the type Volkswagen used to subvert emissions tests.” 20
That will make it harder for signatory nations to transition to clean energy and reach emissions-reduction targets, as agreed upon through the means of international climate treaties.
Moreover, under the TPP, governments can’t discriminate in favour of state-owned enterprises such as Canada Post or Ontario’s Hydro One. “No preferential loans, no marketing services, nothing that can give ‘an advantage’ over a foreign company.” 21
What a shame, since state-owned enterprises are frequently “used to implement energy strategy or fulfil public policy goals.” 21
13. Human Rights
In consideration of human rights issues, Canada should perhaps not be strengthening economic ties with China at a time when the latter “is growing bolder in its push to silence dissent.” 22
In addition, “Canadian workers will be directly in competition with workers in countries with minimal labour standards, like Malaysia, which has a reputation for human trafficking.” 21
This raises several questions. How will this risky TPP affect consumer access to labour rights information and fair trade labelling efforts? Will the TPP prevent signatory countries from offering protection and assistance to sufferers of human rights violations? Can Canadians expect to see their own workplace rights diminished?
14. Net Neutrality
What’s important to know about this issue is that the TPP’s net neutrality standards are “so weak and unenforceable that at least half of the TPP countries already far exceed them.” 23 The question to ask is, will the TPP somehow help weaken existing net neutrality rules?
15. Data Localization — Online Privacy
While the TPP’s net neutrality standards “are unlikely to have much, if any, impact,” 23 it is certain that the deal “harms privacy by restricting the use of data localization requirements […] that personal information be stored within the local jurisdiction.” 24
In Canada, only two provinces so far, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, “have created localization requirements for government data.” 24
There are exceptions to the TPP provision on data localization, but they would “not provide effective safeguards for domestic policies.” 25
16. Anti-Spam Standards — Online Privacy
The TPP also contains weak anti-spam standards with only two main requirements: “a binding unsubscribe mechanism and some form of consent.” 26 And since “there are no prescribed penalties,” 26 countries are under no obligation to adopt strict, effective standards.
Canadians can likely expect a rise in junk mail following the ratification of the TPP.
17. Data Transfers — Online Privacy
Another aspect of the TPP that erodes online privacy is the “ban on data transfer restrictions [that] restrict data transfers to those countries with laws that meet the ‘adequacy’ standard for protection.” 27
European law already does this, and “Canadian privacy law received an adequacy designation in 2001. But […] the finding may be placed at risk in light of the ease with which U.S. surveillance practices may capture data coming from Canada.” 27
Thus, “the TPP means that Canada may be unable to comply” with European law. 27
That is a blow to Canadian e-commerce merchants, who would possibly have to modify their systems to comply with European law, or potentially even cease sales to European Union consumers altogether.
Furthermore, for a trade agreement, the TPP doesn’t do much for e-commerce in general. In fact, it basically leaves things as is. Each country will be allowed to continue setting its own customs duties thresholds. 28
The only change? A committee including a representative of each signatory country must be formed to discuss small- and medium-sized enterprises, and its members must meet within one year of the agreement taking effect. 28 There is apparently no mention of subsequent meetings.
19. Big Business
On the other hand, large multinationals and the wealthy have plenty to benefit from the TPP, because the deal “incorporates an elastic definition of ‘investment’ which confers extra-legal legal power on transnational owners of stocks, bonds, speculative financial instruments like derivatives, licenses, franchises, permits, and intellectual property.” 14
Canada would also lose the ability to oversee the sale of certain Canadian companies to foreign investors, as it “would have to cede a large part of its foreign investment screening regulations. These rules prevent domestic companies in strategic areas from being sold recklessly to foreign companies.” 21
20. Cultural Industries
Canadians value their Canadian-made content, but there may be less of it if the TPP is ratified, because the trade deal “creates unprecedented restrictions on policies to support the creation of Canadian content.” 29
In fact, it appears that U.S. lobby groups made the push for this change in an effort to gain greater access to Canada’s cultural industries. 29
And so, the outcome is that “the TPP rules banning local presence requirements and national treatment for service providers would place Canadian cultural rules at risk.” 29 Indeed, “the TPP creates significant cultural concerns for those that support a cultural policy that includes mandated contributions to support the creation of Canadian content.” 29
21. Public Domain
Along similar lines, the TPP imposes mandatory copyright term extension of 20 years. That means there will be “no new works entering the public domain with virtually no gains in terms of new creativity.” 30
Term extension restricts access to Canadian-made content and to Canadian heritage, leads to higher consumer costs, and increases expenditures for educational institutions. 30
22. – 30. More Reasons to Doubt the Risky TPP
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to reject the risky TPP, here are a few more (from The Trouble with the TPP series by Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa):
26. Price of Entry
31. Public Consultations
As previously mentioned, the TPP was negotiated behind closed doors, with only select industry, trade, and labour representatives allowed to voice an input. Since Prime Minister Trudeau’s election, there have been some consultations taking place, but critics say it’s not enough.
Last week, International Trade Minister Freeland issued an open letter to Canadians in which she states that “consultations with the provinces, municipal officials, students, labour leaders and members, business representatives, academic experts, and others are just the beginning of the examination needed to fully understand the TPP’s impact.” 31
It is to hope that First Nations, environmental groups, and ordinary Canadian citizens are included in “others.” Up until late January, NGOs were “conspicuously absent from the list of those being consulted,” 32 though a meeting was recently held with Doctors Without Borders.
Canadians can only assume that consultations will eventually extend to the general public, since Minister Freeland writes of her “strong belief in the merits of a robust and transparent examination of the TPP. In particular, this should include extensive, non-partisan consideration, analysis, and testimony from all regions, sectors, and backgrounds.” 31
However, since most consultations have thus far been with “individual and group ‘stakeholders’ […] in privileged positions of influence… Email-only input from ordinary Canadians appears to be given scant attention — it is unlikely, therefore, to have much if any influence on decision making.” 33
Regardless, Minister Freeland promises this to be a fully public process. Yet the consultation process has been criticized for having no “discernible structure.” 34 Similarly, the Council of Canadians says that “the Trudeau government’s consultation process hardly qualifies as a consultation process.” 32
The organization would like to see “an independent analysis of the TPP by the Parliamentary Budget Officer to assess the deal’s impact on employment, health care, human rights, democracy, and the environment.” 35
This “would provide people with unbiased information about the potential consequences of the TPP,” 35 said Harjap Grewal, a Council of Canadians regional organizer in B.C. “It would allow them to participate in a meaningful public consultation process to decide whether this deal is in the public interest or just in corporations’ interests.” 35
Additionally, The Globe and Mail published an editorial in which it states that to ensure Canadians understand the TPP’s implications, Minister Freeland “will have to give Parliamentary committees the time and resources to go over it section by section and hear testimony from neutral experts. Parliament will have to report back to Canadians in plain language about what they are getting and what they are giving up.” 36
Until such requests are granted, Canadians are left with one option. The government has put up a webpage entitled Consulting Canadians on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which contains information about TPP consultations, and which provides an email address dedicated to receiving Canadians’ comments regarding the risky TPP.
It has been pointed out that the government doesn’t indicate what it plans to do with the comments.34 One blogger noted a few weeks ago that four messages have now gone unanswered (other than auto-replies). 37
Canadians have been presented with an ultimatum. As previously noted, Minister Freeland has said that the text of the TPP will not change, regardless of the outcome of the consultations. Canadians must therefore use the consultations to support or oppose the risky TPP.
You can write to the government with your comments at TPP-PTP.firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also want to cc Prime Minister Trudeau, the leaders of the federal parties, Minister Freeland, your MP, your provincial or territorial premier, and your MPP or MLA.
Here are a few suggested writing points:
- Express your concerns regarding any of the 31 reasons to reject the risky TPP outlined above.
- Inquire into how the government will use your input to make its final decision.
- Ask the government to publish summaries of the meetings reported on the TPP Consultations page. Currently the headlines don’t link to anything, and all that is provided is a “simple list of Minister’s meetings — by date and with whom.” 33 The bolded text with an image makes it look like a link to a press release or other meeting announcement, though.
- Indicate that you expect a reply.
Letter to the Editor
To make your views more widely known and help spread the word to other Canadians about the risky TPP, you can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Expose the TPP provides a handy guide on How to Write a Letter to the Editor about the Trans-Pacific Partnership [207kB PDF].
You can also sign these online petitions which are currently active:
- Tell the government to reject the TPP (Leadnow)
- Let’s have real public consultations on the TPP (Council of Canadians)
- Demand an investigation of bribery charges and a review of TPP officials (Fight for the Future)
- Trade Ministers: reject Internet censorship! (Open Media)
- Medicines shouldn’t be a luxury: Add your voice (Doctors Without Borders)
- Tell Congress: Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (350.org)
- Say NO to the TPP (SumOfUs)
- Stop the TPP (Green Party of Canada)
- Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership (Move On)
- US Congress: Stop the TPP (Avaaz)
- Reject the TPP (Council of Canadians)
- Tell world leaders: “Don’t sign the TPP” (Fight for the Future)
1 Federal government to sign Trans-Pacific Partnership (Andy Blatchford, CP24)
2 Time for negotiations is finished for Trans-Pacific Partnership: trade minister (Ross Marowits, Global News)
3 Seven Ways TPP Favours Mega-rich Foreign Investors, Not Canadians (Gus Van Harten, The Tyee)
4 Several UN Sustainable Development Goals are irreconcilable with Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal [261kB PDF] (Bill Waren, Senior Trade Analyst, Friends of the Earth)
6 Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Reached, but Faces Scrutiny in Congress (Jackie Calmes, New York Times)
7 The investor-state dispute settlement provision in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians)
8 Trans-Pacific Partnership: Common Good or Corporate Good? (Mark Anderson, Seven Pillars Institute for Global Finance and Ethics)
9 Secretive Deal Isn’t About Trade, But Corporate Control (Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!)
10 TPP Will Cost Canada 58,000 Jobs, Won’t Grow Economy (Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood, trade and energy researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)
11 How TPP Helps Workers Still a Mystery, Says National Union Leader (Jeremy J. Nuttall, The Tyee)
13 How Big Pharma got the better of Ottawa (Paul Christopher Webster, Globe and Mail Report on Business) via Trudeau must reject extended drug patent provisions in CETA and TPP (Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians)
15 Inequality Explained: Will the Trans-Pacific Partnership affect Canada’s food sovereignty? (Jill Guerra, Noal Amir, Sarah Harper, Shirin Kiamanesh, Open Canada)
16 Food system that fails poor countries needs urgent reform, says UN expert (Mark Tran, The Guardian)
17 TPP would allow milk from cows receiving hormones into Canada (Janyce McGregor, CBC News)
18 TPP deal could mark start of the end for supply management in Canada (Eric Atkins, The Globe and Mail)
21 The TPP Hands Control Over Trade To The World’s Wealthiest (Sujata Dey, Council of Canadians Trade Campaigner, Huff Post Canada)
22 China Kidnappings in Spotlight as Canada Mulls New Trade Deal (Jeremy J. Nuttall, The Tyee)
23 The Trouble with the TPP, Day 20: Unenforceable Net Neutrality Rules (Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa)
26 The Trouble with the TPP, Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards (Michael Geist)
28 The Trouble with the TPP, Day 17: Weak E-commerce Rules (Michael Geist)
30 The Trouble with the TPP, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension (Michael Geist)
31 Open Letter to Canadians on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade)
32 Trudeau offers an e-mail address to hear from you on the TPP (Brent Patterson, Council of Canadians)
33 Is Minister Freeland undervaluing TPP input from “ordinary citizens”? (Citizen Action Monitor)
34 The Liberals’ TPP consultation: more questions than answers (BJ Siekierski, iPolitics)
36 Read the entire TPP text? No way. That’s Parliament’s job (The Globe and Mail)
37 Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership incompatible with democracy? My letter to Trade Minister Freeland (Citizen Action Monitor)