Most of the governments involved have no real idea how they will be affected by the Trans Pacific Partnership
Twelve governments, including Canada’s newly elected Liberal government, will gather in New Zealand on February 4th to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP.
Meanwhile people around the world are mobilizing to stop the agreement from ever being ratified – because not much of the TPP is really about trade at all. It’s actually a corporate Bill of Rights that gives transnational corporations the power to undermine the authority of national governments to pass legislation in the public interest.
The TPP and “trade” deals like it weaken democracy, increase income inequality, endanger our public services, give corporations more rights than the citizenry, further endanger our already stressed environment, and kill jobs.
Most of the governments that want to sign on to the TPP appear to have no real idea how their country’s economy and social systems will be affected by it. Like Canada, they have not done impact studies on past deals nor have they done forecasting studies on the potential impacts of the TPP.
Even so, the evidence is not hard to find.
NAFTA is one of the biggest of these ‘trade deals’. Since Canada, the U.S. and Mexico signed it, Canada has lost over 550,000 manufacturing jobs. The U.S. has lost over a million. Mexico saw a drastic decline in working conditions. Wages in all three countries have stagnated or declined. Income inequality has increased. Environmental measures by governments have been successfully challenged by corporations. We haven’t seen a significant new social program here in Canada since we signed on to this deal.
There were winners however. The biggest corporations in Canada, the ones which had pushed hard for the deal, all saw their profits increase. At the same time the number of people they employed went down. These facts are seldom discussed by our governments. They don’t fit the narrative about how positive these deals supposedly are.
Tufts University in the U.S. did an unbiased study of the likely effects of the TPP. The result was sobering – economic losses for the bigger economies and insignificant growth for the smaller economies, along with a net loss of 650,000 jobs throughout the TPP countries. Labour’s share of the national income will decline throughout the TPP, and income inequality will therefore rise even further.
For this, we are asked to give up democratic control over our economies, the right to make decisions about our environment, the right to regulate corporate behaviour. That is a huge price to pay for, at absolute best, a negligible return.
The TPP will give corporations the right to challenge laws and regulations of our governments. Corporations would have more right to challenge our governments than we do as citizens. And if the challenges are successful, our governments will have to pay out billions of dollars to these companies.
The TPP also has a provision that in future could prevent the development of new publicly run social programs.
In addition it has a provision that governments can decide to privatize their public services, but once they make that decision they can never reconsider even if the decision to privatize was a dreadful mistake.
The TPP would increase corporate patent rights, so our drugs will be more expensive.
Some government leaders have boasted about the wonderful labour rights in the TPP. More empty promises. The labour rights sections are made up of nice statements about what government should aspire to do but very little about what they must do.
Environmental protection? The words ‘climate change’ are not even mentioned.
The TPP would severely limit the right of governments to use public spending, on roads or hospitals or schools, as a way to build the local economy.
But the most damning description of the TPP is that none of its almost 6,000 pages gives governments or workers or the public at large any new rights. Every single page is about limiting the right of governments to control corporate behaviour or about giving corporations more rights than they have now.
One government official said that the TPP had to be negotiated in secret because if people knew what was in it, they wouldn’t stand for it.
Well, now we know.
By Larry Brown
Larry Brown is National Co-chair of Canada’s Trade Justice Network.