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The Trans-Pacific trade agreement: A partnership of one

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The United States is reportedly considering cutting Canada out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a huge international free trade agreement. The negotiations for the TPP have been extremely secretive because much like the entire KFC menu, if you knew what was in it, you'd be having none of it. 

International trade agreements are framed by supporters as a kind of benign economic lubricant, an express lane on the road to prosperity. In reality, this express lane is designed for corporations to speed past traffic jams known as democracy. 

Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than the "investor-state dispute settlement" mechanism, ISDS. It allows corporations to sue governments over laws that cost them money. The cases are decided by a secret tribunal of highly paid, unaccountable corporate lawyers, and many of them rotate between being judges on these tribunals and representing corporations in other lawsuits. Instead of a gavel they just have a foam finger that says "Corporations #1."

In theory, ISDS shields companies from a foreign government that takes its assets and doesn't pay it anything in return. In practice, ISDS shields companies in the same sense that brass knuckles shield your knuckles. For example, Quebec is being sued for $250 million under NAFTA because they banned fracking.

The corporation suing them argues that they have the right to regulations that conform to their expectations. How is it a right to have things work out the way you expect them to? Newlyweds don't have the right to a marriage full of constant, amazing sex and no compromises. 

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, like other free trade agreements, turns corporations into super citizens with rights beyond mere mortals, and Canada is better off treating it like the crappy Spiderman reboot it is, saving our money and staying at home. 

This video originally appeared in The Toronto Star

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