What Trade Deal is Worth Trading Supply Management For?

Stephen Harper has recently gone on record stating “Canada MUST be part of a TPP deal” and it looks like he is prepared to trade off Supply Management to make that happen. It makes me wonder what other concessions our trade negotiators might be willing to offer up. TPP has been written behind closed doors and, while Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies may know what’s included, Canadian farmers and the public do not. TPP has been referred to as NAFTA on steroids, but there is a real chance that the TPP is more than a “free trade” agreement and may lead to a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations that has implications far beyond our dairy or poultry sectors. I’m certainly not an expert on international trade, but in the reading I have done on TTP, here are a few of the potential pitfalls I have come across:

Corporations outsource more jobs overseas. Similar to NAFTA, TPP will make it even easier for multinational corporations to outsource call centers, computer programming, engineering, accounting and medical diagnostic jobs. Manufacturing jobs are particularly at risk.  TPP would provide benefits to multinational companies by reducing the risks associated with operating in low-wage countries.

Canadian sovereignty could be undermined by giving domestic and foreign corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals. TPP contains a dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.” These challenges would be heard before UN and World Bank tribunals and could require taxpayer compensation to be paid to corporations. This includes democratically passed laws like those dealing with labor, health, and the environment. This basically gives corporations the right to sue any of the member nations of the TPP. These international tribunals would essentially bypass domestic courts.

Food Safety Standards may be threatened. TPP makes it easier for countries with lower food safety standards than Canada to export and we may be required to lower our food safety minimums to match other TPP member nations.

Government procurement may go offshore. Under TPP, foreign corporations must be given equal access to compete for government contracts with Canadian companies. This means that, even countries with bad human rights records would potentially be eligible to receive Canadian government contracts.

Prescription drug prices may increase. Pharmaceutical companies are trying to extend patents on prescription drugs (which currently can last 20 years or more). This could potentially leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders claim that “TPP is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”

Bay and Wall Streets would benefit at our expense. Under TPP, governments would be barred from imposing “capital controls” that have been successfully used to avoid financial crises. In other words, TPP would expand the power of the same Wall Street firms that nearly collapsed the world economy and create conditions for more financial instability in the future.

TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal. Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the member countries. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so worried about getting in and, instead worry if we could ever get out…..

While I’m normally a glass-half-full kind of guy, I am definitely stuck on the down side risks of TPP and am thinking about supply management and everything else we stand to lose. Maybe it would help if someone could tell me what we stand to gain…..

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