"This trade deal will rig the Canadian economy in favour of powerful corporations. It is an outright betrayal of workers. It will do nothing to stop climate change, and it will certainly exacerbate income and wealth inequality.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (26 Oct. 2018) — Yesterday, after just 7 days of study, the Senate of Canada passed legislation implementing the so-called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a multilateral trade agreement among 11 countries bordering the Pacific Ocean.
Negotiations began under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Trudeau government signed it in 2016.The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has been an outspoken critic of this trade deal, outlining some of the most disturbing aspects of the agreement.
Tiny economic gains, but big pains
According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alerntatives even the rosiest projections of the CPTPP suggest only tiny economic gains: for example, a 0.082 per cent increase in GDP by 2035.
Meanwhile, Canada gave up market-access concessions for eggs and dairy. And the trade position of most higher-value-added manufacturing industries, like vehicles, will deteriorate. According to the United Steelworkers, the CPTPP is projected to kill 58,000 Canadian jobs.
Weak labour chapter
The labour chapter in the old TPP was so weak, it was totally ineffective at protecting even workers’ basic rights. It obliges the complainant to prove both that the member country has not enforced its own labour laws, and that this violation had an impact on trade. In practice, this burden of proof is so difficult that there’s never been a single successful labour complaint under the labour chapter of any free trade agreement containing this language.
The labour chapter in the CPTPP has the same regressive language. In fact it’s worse, because the labour protections were weakened to allow Vietnam up to a 5-year grace period before the labour provisions are enforced.
ISDS: a private court system exclusively for foreign investors
The old TPP guaranteed extraordinary privileges to foreign investors in the form of an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism. The new CPTPP has the same unchanged regressive language, even though Prime Minister Trudeau promised a reformed system.
This exclusive court system lets foreign investors use private tribunals to sue governments over any law, policy, rule, or practice that might limit their expected future profits. These tribunals can order governments to pay corporations unlimited sums of money, which the taxpayers of Canada would be forced to pay. And the rulings of the tribunals are not subject to appeal.
Any trade agreement that gives more rights to foreign investors than citizens living in that country cannot be called progressive.
Toothless environment chapter
The environment chapter has the same mostly toothless protections found in the original TPP. The Trudeau government claims it achieved some wording in a new preamble that aligns with its progressive aspirations. But a treaty’s preamble is at best a guide to interpretation. It does not change, let alone override, the obligations of the treaty.
The same regressive TPP with a new name, and a pointless and unenforceable preamble
The original TPP represented the worst of what trade agreements have to offer. The new CPTPP is no better. It is nothing but the same old agreement with a different name: almost all of the original 29-chapter, 5,000-page text is preserved, except for a few pointless and unenforceable side letters and a preamble.
There is nothing progressive about the new TPP, despite an opportunistic and politically motivated attempt to change the agreement’s official title to the “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.” The new name is an insult to labour unions and civil society activists around the world who have spent decades demanding and struggling for an alternative, more humane, environmentally sensitive, and worker-friendly model for truly progressive international trade and development.
An outright betrayal of workers
NUPGE President Larry Brown has denounced the investment agreement as “an affront to democracy and a threat to economic equality.” As Brown explained, “the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership will create a private court system for foreign investors, giving them the right to sue democratically elected governments. And it will rig the Canadian economy in favour of powerful corporations. It is an outright betrayal of workers. It will do nothing to stop climate change, and it will certainly exacerbate income and wealth inequality.”
"For these reasons, NUPGE opposes the CPTPP, and demands that the Government of Canada consult with Canadians to create trade policy that benefits workers and their families," said Brown.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE