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Fact check: Canadians likely to lose more than they gain under TPP

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Trade Minister Ed Fast speaking in Montreal, 2014

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The claim: Conservative Trade Minister Ed Fast says the Trans-Pacific Partnership will net $3.5 billion of additional economic activity, far outweighing any potential losses in individual sectors. Is that true?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a sweeping trade deal that has the potential to fundamentally change Canada's economy. This column has examined the negative implications of the TPP in the dairy, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.

Despite being in the middle of an election campaign, the Conservatives signed the deal. They argue that Canada's economy will see a boost of about $3.5 billion dollars. Ed Fast, Minister responsible for international trade and Conservative candidate, said that his office has determined this estimate.

Tony Clement was more conservative with his estimate, saying that the TPP would net $3 billion for Canada's economy. The Embassy reported that Clement didn't release the details of this calculation, and the Treasury Board staff couldn’t explain it either.

In 2013, Canada's goods exports totaled $479 billion. Foreign direct investment was $64.2 billion.

One of the key industries that stands to lose the most under the TPP is agriculture. To woo Conservative poultry, egg and dairy farmers, especially in Ontario, Harper has promised to pay them $4.3 billion in subsidies. This could be paid out over the next decade. Harper doesn't have the authority to simply promise such a pay out.

To help pay for anticipated losses in the auto industry, Harper has promised another subsidy of $1 billion over 10 years.

To sum: Canadians will pay $5.3 billion in subsidies over 10 years to pay for what might end up being $3.5 billion more to Canada's economy, over an untold number of years.

Economist for the Canadian Union of Public Employees Toby Sanger is skeptical about the Conservatives'figures. In an email, he said that most of the modeling that has been used to project economic gains relies on unrealistic goals like full unemployment. "What we've seen is very little or no increase in trade as a result of recent 'free trade agreements,'" he said.

"Any increase in economic benefits from this deal will be very modest and very likely overshadowed by the increased costs," said Sanger.

The final text of the TPP has not yet been released, but a leaked chapter shows that signatory countries have agreed to give judges the power to destroy materials if they were involved in circumventing digital locks. This could mean that your laptop could be ordered to be destroyed for something as simple as having programs on it that let you stream content blocked by copyright legislation in your own country.

The costs to Canadians will go far beyond financial or job losses.

Thomas Mulcair opposes the TPP and has called on the Conservatives to make the text of the agreement public before Election Day.  The Liberals have said that they support free trade but will not take a position on the TPP until after the full text is released.


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Image: Flickr/DFATD | MAECD

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