Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast will join last-minute negotiations in Atlanta this week, with the goal of pushing through a deeply flawed “trade” deal few Canadians have even heard about – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Conservatives want it passed before the October 19 federal election, a move questioned by many given that Parliament is suspended for the campaign.
The TPP is worrying labour leaders and environmentalists in Canada and around the world because of its blatant disregard for worker protection, environmental safeguards, and the harm it could do to vital, but vulnerable economic sectors like auto manufacturing.
Can Canada sign-on during an election campaign?
During an election campaign, the governing party is traditionally considered to be a “caretaker government” without the mandate to undertake major initiatives, such as signing on to a major multilateral trade and investment deal with lasting and far-reaching consequences.
Opposition is widespread
Fears over the deal prompted national labour movement leaders from Mexico, the U.S., and Canada to issue a joint statement calling on trade negotiators to slow down, stop, and revise the guiding principles of the TPP.
“We’ve seen no evidence that our current government is working to ensure that the TPP will benefit Canadian workers,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff.
While corporations have full access to negotiations and the proposed texts, opposition legislators and civil society actors have been shut out of the process in all TPP countries.
“We’ll continue to work with our allies to try and cut through the secrecy surrounding this deal,” said Yussuff.
The proposed deal, as it currently designed, would:
- Extend the NAFTA-style investment provisions that give corporations the “right” to sue governments for policies or regulations that might reduce profits. The proceedings of this corporate “private justice system” take place in the back rooms of trade offices, not in public courts.
- Undermine vital domestic industries like the automotive sector. The TPP threatens to erode NAFTA’s regional automotive content rules, risking the loss of auto assembly and parts manufacturing investments and jobs.
“The CLC, along with its American and Mexican partners, calls for good jobs and decent work in a sustainable economy that is balanced and equitable – within and among our countries,” said Yussuff. “The TPP – or any other trade deal – should put these priorities above corporate profits, every time,” he added.
The twelve nations currently negotiating the TPP are the U.S., Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam.