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The absurd pretense of framing the Trans-Pacific Partnership as 'progressive'

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Rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Photo by Neil Ballantyne via Wikimedia Commons

Canada has now joined Australia, Mexico, Japan, and Singapore in the last stages of formally ratifying the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The bill implementing the trade deal was granted royal assent on Thursday, October 25.

Peru, Chile, Vietnam, and New Zealand are also expected to ratify the deal soon, meaning it will likely come into force sometime early in 2019.

A recent National Post article champions the deal, but completely misses the key criticisms of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership which now unconvincingly has "Comprehensive and Progressive" tacked onto its name.

1. It's largely the same as the TPP.

Provisions in the original deal, including patent provisions on pharmaceutical drugs that would increase the costs for those who need to access them while boosting the profits of transnational corporations, were only suspended, not deleted or removed, which leaves the door open for them to return. Japan's chief TPP negotiator Kazuyoshi Umemoto has stated, "One of the main reasons to keep the differences between the original TPP-12 and TPP-11 to a minimum is to induce the U.S. to come back to the deal."

2. Public consultation was ignored.

In April 2017, the Liberal-dominated House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade issued its report on the TPP, concluding that the federal government should pursue a deal with TPP signatory countries. The NDP's dissenting opinion to the Standing Committee's report noted, "Despite the Committee's study being called a public consultation, the Committee's report gives little attention to the input provided by members of the public. It is worth noting that every individual who spoke at the public participation sessions expressed concerns with the TPP and in most cases opposed the agreement outright."

3. Investor-state dispute settlement provision remains.

The Trudeau government describes the controversial ISDS provision in the CPTPP as "fair, impartial and effective" and has highlighted, even seemingly boasted at one point, "Environment and labour rights will form crucial pillars of a new agreement and will be subject to dispute settlement mechanisms."

4. There are minimal gains versus large risks and job losses.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has commented, "Even the rosiest economic projections of the CPTPP come up with only tiny economic gains: for example, a 0.082 per cent increase in Canadian GDP by 2035. This represents a one-time increase after 15 years, not an annual increase." University of Auckland Professor Jane Kelsey argues "these gains are minuscule compared to risks involved with signing up to the agreement." In January 2016, a Tufts University study found that the original Trans-Pacific Partnership would cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality.

5. Preamble contains aspirational text, not binding rights.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network has stated, "The additional published text is only nine pages, with some changes from Canada to the non-binding preamble that mentions cultural identity, Indigenous rights and gender equity, but these are aspirational only, and will not affect the legally binding provisions in the rest of the agreement."

ICTSD has recently reported that the United Kingdom, Colombia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand could also possibly join the CPTPP.

The CPTPP like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (NAFTA 2.0) and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement are corporate rights agreements that devastate people and the environment, but spun as progressive and even feminist by the Trudeau government. Their pretense is absurd.

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.

Photo: Neil Ballantyne via Wikimedia Commons

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