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Op-Ed: Opposition growing to giant Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

There are 30 chapters to the agreement mainly concerned with public policy. The stated goals of the TPP are to:.. “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.”

While this all sounds very positive, there have been many critics of the TPP in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere. Joseph Stiglitz, a distinguished economist who won a Nobel Prize, said the TPP could well be the worst trade agreement ever negotiated and should be renegotiated: “I think what Canada should do is use its influence to begin a renegotiation of TPP to make it an agreement that advances the interests of Canadian citizens and not just the large corporations.” In particular, Stiglitz took issue with the investment-protection provisions, which would limit how governments could regulate businesses. The provisions give multinationals the right to sue the Canadian government or other governments who signed the agreement. As Stiglitz remarks: “It used to be the basic principle was polluter pay. If you damaged the environment, then you have to pay. Now if you pass a regulation that restricts ability to pollute or does something about climate change, you could be sued and could pay billions of dollars.”

The Council of Canadians has long been critical of the TPP: The Council of Canadians opposes this deal because it includes an investor-state dispute settlement provision that allows transnational corporations to sue governments over legislation or policies made in the public interest, it extends the patent length (and profits) of pharmaceutical corporations by delaying the introduction of lower cost generic drugs, it slashes the domestic content requirement for automobiles, putting thousands of autoworker jobs at risks, and it undermines family farmers by opening up the Canadian dairy market to imports without creating new export markets for Canadian farmers. A more detailed explanation of the effects on Canadian automakers can be found here.

A recent critique of the TPP by well-known activist Linda McQuaig can be found in the Toronto Star. McQuaig notes the legal rights that the TPP grants corporations, repeating Stiglitz’s criticism that the decisions would be decided by closed tribunals. She cites a report by Gus Van Harlen of Osgoode Hall, a law professor.

Harlen examined how corporations have taken advantage of such legal rights under NAFTA the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canada has been sued 39 times and investors have won more than $190 million in compensation from Canadian taxpayers.

Lone Pine Resources has challenged fracking regulations in Canada. Trans-Canada is suing the U.S. for $15 billion for Obama’s decision to not approve the Keystone pipeline. As Van Harten notes: And the cases are decided by private sector lawyers acting as arbitrators. Unlike regular judges, these arbitrators, paid exorbitant hourly rates, have a direct financial interest in encouraging foreign investors to bring claims and to stretch them out, and have so far earned “well over $1 billion in fees”,

Bernie Sanders, rival candidate to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the U.S., has been a strong critic of the TPP and is pushing to have a plank in the Democratic election platform opposing a vote on the TPP. President Obama is a strong proponent of the TPP as Hillary Clinton was until recently. She now opposes it. However, the party seems reluctant to come out in direct opposition to president Obama: While Sanders won many concessions in the draft platform released July 1, including language promoting a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the document doesn’t come out against the TPP. A platform opposing the trade deal would put the party in direct opposition of its leader, Obama.

At a meeting in St. Louis on June 24, those present produced a draft of the Democratic party election platform. Representative Keith Ellison introduced language opposing the TPP. His motion was defeated by a vote of 10 to five, with only the five pro-Sanders members voting in favor. This may be a prelude to this weekend when the full 187 platform members meet in Orlando Florida. If Clinton organizes her supporters to prevent opposition to the TPP from being part of the Democratic platform this will be seized upon by Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has made opposition to the deal a key part of his campaign. He will immediately accuse Clinton of not really being in opposition to the TPP. The move will also alienate Sanders’ supporters.

The New York Times and others claim that Sanders is expected to endorse Clinton next week. If the Democratic Platform fails to oppose the TPP, Sanders may find it difficult to support her. If he does, his own followers will be angry. Elizabeth Warren is also a strong critic of the TPP.

UPDATE: Clinton supporters made sure motion opposing TPP was voted down. Will Sanders still support her? Trump will have a field day. Clinton obviously does not really oppose the TPP, it is a move to get some votes.

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