Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.
Do you squeeze oranges expecting apple juice?
Of course not. So Canadians shouldn’t be surprised when an undemocratic process like the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations yields an undemocratic result.
On October 5, just two weeks before the recent federal election, beaming trade ministers from the 12 TPP countries gathered on stage in Atlanta to announce that they had completed negotiations on the largest and most secretive trade agreement in modern history.
Now the TPP looks like it’s becoming the first major test for the new Liberal government. Although the previous government signed Canada on to the deal, it will still need to be approved by the recently elected new Parliament.
Despite the fact that negotiations had been continuing for over three years, most Canadians knew nothing about the agreement, and so the announcement from Atlanta came as big news. Even those of us who have been following the process closely have little information on the TPP’s contents. Of its 29 chapters, we have only seen three — and only because they were leaked and published by Wikileaks.
So here we are, being told by political leaders that we must be a part of this agreement, as there is “simply too much to gain for Canada.” But if we have so much to gain, why did the previous government wait until the last possible moment to pitch us the plan, and then keep it under wraps throughout the recent election?
The few who have read the leaked texts know exactly why: Canadians would never accept the TPP if we knew what was being negotiated on our behalf.
Despite vowing to release the full text before the election, Trade Minister Ed Fast reneged on his promise only days later, leaving Canadians without an opportunity to judge for themselves if the trumped-up benefits of the TPP are truly there at all.
For an example of just how bad the TPP is for Canadians, let’s take a look at the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter. For years, digital rights experts the world over have been calling it “one of the worst global threats to the Internet.”
The previous government assured Canadians that the TPP’s changes to copyright law are “fully consistent with Canadian law and policy.” But only days after the announcement by trade ministers, the final version of the IP chapter was leaked — and it’s even worse than we could have imagined.
We know now that Canadians will see copyright terms extended by 20 years, robbing the public domain and snatching what experts estimate will be hundreds of millions of dollars out of our pockets every year.
And that’s not all: vaguely worded clauses will mean increased Internet censorship, complete with content takedowns and website blocking. You could even have your computer seized and destroyed just for ripping your favourite CD onto your computer. Under the TPP, will we even really own what we buy?
The trend here is clear: to replace Canada’s balanced copyright rules with a much harsher, U.S.-style approach. The fact is, secretive, closed negotiations only benefit those who have a seat at the table. Throughout the negotiations, TPP officials went out of their way to avoid engaging in genuine, citizen stakeholder engagement.
Canadians must demand that our new incoming government reject the TPP’s Internet censorship plan. Frankly, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
Meghan Sali is Free Expression campaigner with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet.