economics

A simple question, unanswered

If the Trans Pacific Partnership is really the biggest game on the planet, why really is it okay to negotiate it in complete secrecy? Secrecy to the point that our elected representatives, who theoretically should have our best interests at heart (heh) can’t even see the thing? Why is it that the only details we can see are those that have been released via wikileaks?

Okay, there were a few questions there, but they are sequential and related. I consider them a unit.

Since we are well and truly in election campaign mode (really, when aren’t we?), why is this not the biggest single issue on everyone’s lips?  It basically affects every possible economic issue you can imagine.

At its core, the TPP is about promoting foreign investment and protecting investors. It has everything to do with competitive advantage, share price, profits, and nothing at all to do with jobs, the environment, or standards of living. It is therefore very important to anyone concerned at all with income disparity. Like her politics or not, Maud Barlow is absolutely right in describing this as a “deal for the 1%”. The information we have so far, some of which I cite below, is not hopeful. The sky might not actually be falling, but without any hard information, how are we to know?

The sky isn’t falling? Show me, prove it. Until then, here are a few little snippets teased out of the wikileak:

On the environment:

Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable. Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.

This means, fewer protections for the environment and few pesky regulations getting in the way of “commercial objectives”.

On jobs (note, this paragraph was written in an American context, but the Canadian situation is similar and may in fact be worse):

A leaked text revealed that TPP is slated to include the extreme foreign investor privileges that help corporations offshore more U.S. jobs to low-wage countries. These NAFTA-style terms provide special benefits to firms that relocate abroad and eliminate many of the usual risks that make firms think twice about moving to low-wage countries.

Under the NAFTA model, U.S. manufacturing imports have soared while growth of U.S. manufacturing exports has slowed.

Are you happy with the jobless recovery? Just wait, it’s gonna get even better!
On pharmaceuticals (note that according to this article, the Canadian government is fighting this, but we are a very small dog in this fight.):
We know from leaks of the TPP draft text that some governments are attempting to dismantle public-health safeguards enshrined in international law by extending the length of time that brand-name medicines are protected by patents to create new types of monopolistic protection. As a result, pharmaceutical companies will be able to charge unduly high prices for several more years, thereby restricting access to affordable life-saving generic medicines. This will disproportionately affect those who can least afford to pay.
Where are the political parties on this issue? It’s not that straightforward. Corporation-friendly regulatory regimes are right up Conservative Alley, but with all negotiations in secret, it is not easy to see where the Canadian government is in agreement and where it has problems. The Liberals and the NDP likewise have been wishy-washy about the deal, hoping I expect that it doesn’t become an issue that they have to debate openly. There are tough discussions to be had here, tougher for all the silence. I would love to change that.

Let’s make the parties talk!
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