KAMLOOPS — Rumours of the death of the TPP are greatly exaggerated. After President Trump announced U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, I congratulated him: “Thank you, Mr. Trump, for killing the TPP.”
I now realize that Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP was not an indicator of leadership, but a sign of retreat from the international community. It’s just another indication of the degree of U.S. marginalization. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is yet another indicator that we must carry on without him.
Where the original TPP had a number of flaws, the new TPP can be negotiated to Canada’s advantage. Canada was disadvantaged in the first round because we were latecomers: we had to accept what had already been negotiated.
Canada is a trading nation and as such, we depend on fair trade agreements. As politicians like to do, I’ll list my five conditions for acceptance of the new TPP — dubbed TPP11 after the number of countries left to pick up the pieces.
Investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS) should not be part of TPP11. This allows companies to seek damages from governments when local regulations interfere with profit-making.
When disputes arise, as they are bound to do, they should be settled in a transparent manner by judges, similar to the International Court, not in private between arbitrators as is now done with NAFTA.
Environmental standards should not be part of TPP11. Environmental damage is seen by industry as a cost of doing business; a price which indigenous peoples and future generations will pay. Environmental standards need to be negotiated by separate accords like the Paris Agreement.
Intellectual property should be excluded as well. Artists and small software companies need protection, but too often concern for intellectual property masks large corporate interests such as Disney.
Exclude health regulations as well. They are an excuse for Big Pharma to extend the patent life of drugs that could be made cheaper with generics.
TPP11 will be a meeting of middle powers now that the U.S. is out, and China and Europe were never in. Canada can then negotiate from a position of strength when it comes to superpowers. Trump favours individual bilateral deals because he imagines an advantage over smaller countries. But if those smaller countries can form a block, there is an alternative to the bully tactics of Trump.
The TTP11 would give Canada access to markets not previously available, says Hugh Stephens of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. It will jump-start bilateral talks that were going nowhere, like those between Japan and Canada. With Japan in the TTP11, negotiations can proceed. And trade agreements under the umbrella of TPP11 can take place with other countries where Canada has no bilateral agreements such as Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam and Malaysia.
And in countries where Canada does have bilateral agreements, such as Mexico, Chile and Peru, the TTP11 can tie up loose ends.
Whereas Canada was a follower in the original TTP, we can be a leader in fair trade under TTP11. With the U.S. retreating into a fog of befuddlement, Canada needs to step up on the world stage.