The details of the trans-pacific partnership (TPP) were released on November 5. Initial research on the 6,194-page document suggests that the deal is more damaging than expected for Canadians.
The conceit of the TPP is to better link the Americas to the Asia-Pacific region. On October 5, the 12 countries – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S., and Vietnam – agreed to the deal. Officials will closely review the details of the document in the coming months and likely ratify the plurilateral agreement in 2017.
Together, these 12 countries make up approximately 40% of the world’s gross domestic product, so this trade deal will have implications beyond the borders of the countries directly involved. Presuming the success of the agreement, other countries have now expressed interest in joining.
A number of business persons, politicians, and scholars have been quite blunt about the TPP. In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans take issue with the deal. In Canada, former co-chief executive of Research in Motion, Jim Basallie, states that Canada has been “outfoxed” by the U.S., particularly in the realm of intellectual property. He provocatively claims, “I actually think this is the worst thing that the Harper government has done for Canada.”
Stephen Harper was proud of the initial agreement and Justin Trudeau, prior to the election, would neither oppose nor support the deal. Trudeau is now reported as saying he supports the deal and will put it to Parliamentary debate and vote. Accepting the deal will likely prove to be a bad decision. In the meantime, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland will apparently read all comments about the TPP sent to her by Canadians.
The “troubling” part of the deal revolves around provisions clearly benefitting U.S. businesses. Indeed, according to Basillie, the rules that go into effect are there “forever.” President Barack Obama expressed his concerns about not accepting the deal, using scare tactics and nationalist sentiment: if American does not write the rules of the road, i.e., trade agreements, then China will.
Thus the two economic superpowers are squaring off on economic superiority. China has responded with their 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a deal which could include India.
In my summary of the TPP (Issue 6), I noted a number of its failures. There was one key improvement in the area of copyright in that previously foreign countries’ copyright laws could be imposed on Canadians – this has since been changed.
Copyright still remains a large issue. Copyright to the life of an author has increased from 50 years to 70 years. This means that it will take an additional 20 years for books and culture to become public domain once the individual has passed away. This may cost Canadians hundreds of millions of dollars.
Some of the other concerning provisions are more specifically big-business related. The TPP will allow foreign companies easier takeovers of Canadian companies. Foreign companies can also sue the Canadian government for enforcing Canadian laws that inhibit their profit. The patent life for pharmaceuticals has also increased, thus medicine and health care will likely increase since generic drug manufacturers have to wait even longer to begin their production.
The auto sector will receive an even worse blow than anticipated. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, 60% of car parts must come from within NAFTA. Under the TPP agreement, initially 40% of car parts were required to come from the 12 TPP nations – this number is now down to 35%. Canadian jobs in the auto sector are expected to decline.
The provisions in this sector also demonstrate the different requirements for Canada and the U.S. Within five years, Canada will eliminate tariffs on Japanese cars; the U.S. will take 30 years to eliminate their tariffs on the same product from the same nation.
There are further issues arising with privacy and the rules of the Internet. The TPP agreement may be used to criminalize certain online activities as well as enforce censorship. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are tasked with becoming copyright cops. An individual can demand that the ISP take down content due to copyright infringement without a court order. The TPP then goes on to state that ISPs are granted legal immunity if this copyright challenge is false or unfounded.
Moreover, website owners are required to provide the real names and addresses of persons with website domains. This information will be published in public databases. Any critical articles related to government, business, or culture can be easily traced, making dissent or revolutionary activity even more dangerous for those involved. The publicness of the database will also likely increase online and physical harassment and trolling.
Finally, shortly after the work accomplished by Edward Snowden and others, the TPP deal includes penalties for whistleblowers and journalists that share corporate secrets online.