Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Canada and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) Agreement

Some shouting on Tumblr caught my eye this morning. It was the first I'd read about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) -- I know, I'm living under a rock (on the other side of the pond, in a land that hasn't signed up to it, to be fair). Free trade agreements are great polarizers -- I sought out rocks to live under as a kid, yet well remember the Chicken Littles of NAFTA -- and this one is no exception: unsurprisingly, there are Intellectual Property issues; we've been dealing with U.S. pressure in this arena for most of my adult life, it seems. Apparently, there are also farming concerns. (In Japan, farmers have been protesting for years against their country's inclusion in the TTP, which was just ratified this summer.)
(The cartoon is by Greg Perry, and courtesy of The Tyee.)

One of the many things I missed regarding the TTP was the public consultations. Geist says IP/copyright was the hot topic. As others have stated, the biggest concern for me is all the secrecy that surrounds the agreement. Yes, as CBC reporter, Curt Petrovich, raises, the negotiations themselves require it, but surely any fruitful consultation would've required information on our conditions for entry, the associated cost-benefit analyses, etc. Otherwise, statements like this sound more like platitudes:
Gerald Keddy, the parliamentary secretary to the trade minister, insisted that Canada's marketing boards will be protected.

"Let's be clear, we've signed free trade agreements with nine countries around the world and we've been able to look after supply side management in every single one of those," he said.
Particularly in the light of this sort of reporting:
For two years, Canada has been lobbying heavily to get into the talks. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade balked at the onerous demands coming from Washington, but in the final days the file was taken over by the PM's chief of staff who was dispatched to Washington to secure Canada's entry, apparently at any cost.

Sight unseen, the government of Canada has agreed to accept any negotiating text on which the nine current members have already reached consensus. According to the USTR, this includes all agreed ("unbracketed") text within chapters that are still open, not just completed chapters. To date, only one chapter has been completed.
Still, I'm coming to the party late, and I'd be lying if I said that securing trade with the Asian market at any cost sounds completely wrong-headed.