rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The TPP came to Ottawa and all I got was this lousy secrecy

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

The first high-level round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ever held in Canada wrapped up on July 12 in Ottawa, with negotiators sneaking out the back door to avoid notice, just as they had slinked into the city 10 days earlier.

Even by the standards of the TPP's closed-door, reveal-nothing approach to negotiations, the Ottawa round of talks was extreme in its secrecy. University of Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey, who has attended more than a dozen meetings as a registered stakeholder or observer, and who travelled to Ottawa for the round, called the July 3-12 meetings "the most opaque round of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement to date."

Given the wide-ranging impacts the TPP would have on Canada if the deal is ever successfully concluded, you'd think the Canadian government might let citizens know what happened in Ottawa. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. There was no stakeholder engagement process at all during the round. No access or briefings offered to media (except for the Japanese government, which offered updates to Japanese media). No briefing before, during, or after the negotiations by lead negotiators. No press release at the end of the talks.

All that was offered was a terse 138-word statement posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development's website which offered an incomplete laundry list of who met and when, but which offered nothing about what was discussed, what progress was made, or where the talks go from here.

The dearth of information about where the negotiations stand is troubling given how advanced negotiations are. With U.S. President Obama publicly suggesting that he envisions some significant progress by the time he travels to Asia in November for the ​Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and G20 leaders meetings (conveniently scheduled for after the U.S. mid-term elections), TPP negotiations are clearly at a critical stage.

While there have been rumours that chief negotiators will follow up on the Ottawa round with another meeting sometime in September, followed by a ministerial meeting in October in order to have something in November to show progress after five years of negotiations, all the information DFATD offered at the conclusion of the round was this: "At this time, dates and location for the next officials' meeting have not been confirmed. A Ministerial meeting has not been scheduled at this time." Not that anyone really expected anything more given the extreme lengths Canada went to in order to frustrate any involvement from civil society in the last round.

But despite the Harper government's secrecy, despite the 11th hour, 4,500-kilometre venue shift from Vancouver to Ottawa, despite not even officially acknowledging the meetings were in Ottawa until a week before they started, Canadian civil society groups and their allies from a number of other TPP countries were able to shine some light on the Ottawa negotiations.

The Council of Canadians kicked things off by revealing the Delta hotel as the location of the secret talks with a 40-foot-long banner. Experts on a range of negotiating areas travelled to Ottawa to hold briefings with interested negotiators and to deliver messages from concerned citizens. A number of groups protested outside the hotel during the negotiations, and the NDP opposition added its voice to the growing number of critiques about TPP secrecy.

In the end, those collective efforts shifted the Harper Conservatives from pretending the negotiations weren't happening at all to lashing out with the same tired rhetoric at critics of its latest corporate rights agreement.

Between rounds and during rounds, the TPP continues to face stiff and growing opposition in all 12 TPP countries. With serious disagreements on some of the TPP's most contentious elements still standing in the way of a final deal, resistance in the U.S. to granting President Obama the fast-track trade authority he needs, and serious doubts about the possibility of anything more than a face-saving announcement in November, the fight against the TPP is far from over.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.