New Trans-Pacific Partnership is anything but comprehensive and progressive

Comments were also received from over 60,000 Canadians — 95% against the deal 

The House of Commons has been debating the implementing legislation of the revamped TPP trade deal — the CPTPP, which stands for “Comprehensive and Progressive” Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. The authors of this re-branded trading pact have taken creative liberties in their use of adjectives to describe something that is essentially the same as what existed back when the Americans were still on the signatories list.

This is an agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Negotiations began in 2005, concluding in October 2015, with our International Trade Minister signing the deal on behalf of Canada in February 2016.

The Liberal government has always made much about consultations for important initiatives, but the responsibility for consultations on this mammoth trade deal were downloaded onto the International Trade Committee, which has very limited resources. Dozens of meetings were held, during which the committee heard from more than 400 witnesses and were sent 8,000 written submissions. Comments were also received from over 60,000 Canadians. It should be noted that 95 per cent of those comments were against the agreement, but the government has decided to press on.

Chief among my concerns with the deal are the labour standards and human rights track records with some member countries. There are compelling testimonials about forced labour camps in Vietnam, and in the case of Brunei, there are laws that punish homosexuality with death by stoning. There is plenty of cause for concern, especially in the context of the federal government using the word “progressive” to re-brand the deal. The references to labour rights in the deal are largely toothless and require a complainant to prove that the violation had an “impact on trade” to ensure resolution.

When Canada opens its borders to international trading partners, those countries benefit from access to our domestic market and from receiving high-quality Canadian-made goods in exchange. Canada, of course, also receives benefits for our exports in these agreements. However, the question that must be raised centres on whether we ought to be entering into trade agreements with countries that have much lower standards and when some of their domestic policies are so completely at odds with Canadian values on human rights.

The other major issue is with our supply-managed agricultural sectors. Each time our government weakens import controls by carving out and offering-up more pieces of our domestic market, supply-managed sectors here at home suffer as a result. As the NDP Agriculture Critic, I have taken a strong stand against using our farmers as bargaining chips to pay for other countries’ over-supply problems.

Canadians expect better when their government is signing these kinds of trade deals. They expect that our values on human rights will inform how the government negotiates these agreements. Unfortunately, the CPTPP makes a mockery of the word “progressive,” and that is why I must vote against implementing this agreement.