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Trans-Pacific Partnership: Canadian groups demand end to secrecy

Ottawa – Ministers from the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, including International Trade Minister Ed Fast, should stop their secret negotiations and immediately make public the 26 chapters of the TPP when they meet in Brunei this week, say Canadian groups, citing precedent for transparency in previous trade negotiations of this size and scope.

"It is a scandal that a far-reaching deal like the TPP could be signed in the coming months without anyone across the 12 participating countries having seen or had a chance to challenge some of the many new restrictions an agreement will put on our ability to govern in the public interest. The only acceptable road forward for the TPP is for ministers to publish the text now before it's too late," says Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, a national grassroots activist and social justice organization.

"The TPP looks more like a corporate power grab than a trade deal from what we've seen of it. It would impose a free-market dogma on governments and override domestic laws in a way that would be rejected if put forward through democratic legislative processes," says Raul Burbano, program director at Common Frontiers, a network bringing together labour, human rights, environmental, and economic and social justice organizations.

The Council of Canadians and Common Frontiers point out that only two of the 26 chapters relate to trade as most people understand it. The other chapters involve restrictions on government's ability to make health policy, the criminalization of everyday uses of the Internet, new limits on access to affordable medicines, prohibiting 'buy local' policies (e.g. local food), encouraging privatization, discouraging the creation of Crown corporations or new public utilities, and empowering corporations to sue governments before private tribunals outside the court system when they're unhappy with environmental or other measures that lower profits.

The groups point out that there is a precedent for transparency in a trade negotiation of this size and scope. In July 2001, responding to public pressure about secrecy in the negotiations toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), North and Latin American ministers published the full text of the agreement in four languages. Former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick called it an "important step" and an "unprecedented effort to make international trade and its economic and social benefits more understandable to the public."

"What has changed in the past decade is that it would no longer be in the interests of countries to make the economic and social benefits of deals like the TPP understandable to the public," says Trew.

The Council of Canadians and Common Frontiers have called for a week of action (August 22 to 31) to protest TPP secrecy in partnership with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and OpenMedia.ca. More information: http://canadians.org/action-tpp.

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