TPP agreement could restrict government’s power

Critics of the TPP trade deal say there could be long-term costs for governments, and their tax payers.

The pros and cons of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement have been discussed by many groups with some seeing short-term benefits and others seeing long-term costs.

Most recently the Western Canadian Wheat Growers showed their support of the agreement stating in a press release that the deal will bring important market access for producers of wheat, canola and barley.

“It is crucial that Canada be a part of the TPP so that the competitors in the United States and Australia do not gain preferential access to key markets in the Pacific Rim,” stated Levi Wood, president of the Wheat Growers.

He added in the release that Canada’s export goals should not be sacrificed. “Canada’s wealth is dependent on access to export markets. Let’s make sure we’re not left behind.”

However, for Terry Boehm, chairperson of the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) seed and trade committee, the issues are more complex than just market access. He suggests one issue with the TPP agreement will create a cheaper product with buyers looking for the lowest prices.

But the issue that is more important to Boehm is how a trade agreement will affect governments in the future. “The long and the short of these agreements are they are handicapping the government’s ability to work on behalf of the constituents.”

He suggests the real benefactors of these agreements are transnational corporations that control goods and services in more than one country. “And they don’t want government restricting movement,” stated Boehm.

To emphasize his point, Boehm pointed to Chapter 11 agreements under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in which Canada has been sued over 30 times with taxpayers footing the bill. A recent case has a company named Clayton/Bilcon suing the Government of Canada for $300 million with a NAFTA arbitration panel ruling against Canada in a proposed expansion quarry in Nova Scotia.

“There’s settlements of billions going on,” offered Boehm.

There are currently 10 notices of intent under the NAFTA Chapter 11 investment filed against Canada. There are also 11 previous arbitration settlements in which Canada was a party to, with the most expensive payout going to AbitibiBowater Inc. with Canadians paying $130 million in settlement.

If a country such as Canada were to put into place restrictions on a company under an agreement, Boehm says it would have little recourse or would have to face being sued.

“It’s not at all about trade and market access,” said Boehm.


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