18 June 2015

The Trans-Pacific Partnership—never heard of it ???!!!

The above headline is plagiarized directly from a CBC article. I added the punctuation gratuitously to convey my horror that a proposed "trade" agreement that could have major effects on Canadian lives is largely unknown to those same Canadians.

The agreement is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and it involves 12 Pacific Rim countries including Canada (but not China). According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it is “the biggest game on the planet,” and yet according to a recent Environics survey, 75 per cent of Canadians have never heard of it.

If it is the biggest game on the planet, why aren't we intimately familiar with it? One answer is that the thing has been, as these agreements tend to be, thrashed out in secret. The TPP has been under negotiation for 10 years but a text has yet to made public. Our own government has been less than forthcoming. For example, when a negotiating session was held in Vancouver, the government didn't bother to mention it until it was leaked by news media in Peru.

There is a need to negotiate in private on a day to day basis, but the public has a right and a need to be periodically brought up to date so we know what will be done for us and to us. The process and the results should be transparent. And we particularly need to have the text reviewed by interests other than government ... or corporations. It should be available for analysis by academics, labour unions, environmentalists and others who can add special expertise.

Our ignorance about the TPP is aggravated by the fact it had been scheduled for completion within weeks. Fortunately that deadline may not now be met. The U.S. House of Representatives recent refusal to give President Obama permission for fast-track approval should slow down the process significantly. We, the people, may even get a chance to look at it. The House has done us all a big favour.

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