I wrote an op-ed about the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement a while back, before the documents were released to the public and before the agreement was signed. With the recent signing of the TPP by Canada as well as the other concerned parties, I feel like I should revisit this topic.
When I wrote that initial op-ed, and in the following months, I made a serious error: I thought that people would actually research the damn thing after the documents were released. Boy, was I wrong. Talking to the people vehemently opposed to the deal, it has become abundantly clear that none of them seem to know what they’re talking about. So, I thought I should dispel some of the more annoying misconceptions.
In every discussion of the TPP the ISDS, or Investor-State Dispute Settlement, is inevitably brought up as an aspect of the TPP that allegedly signs away our sovereignty because companies are allowed to sue the government. The grounds for a lawsuit that I constantly see brought up is for ‘lost profits’. This is entirely false. Companies are allowed to sue governments when they favour domestic companies by discriminating against foreign companies unfairly. In other words, governments can be sued when they don’t follow the treaty they signed. Go figure. Who would have thought that free trade agreements actually meant free trade? The ISDS does not mean that laws (such as environmental protection laws) can lead to lawsuits against the government; it means that the laws have to apply to all the companies equally.
With that squared away, let’s look at another misconception; this false idea that the only way that a free trade agreement is worth signing is if it boosts GDP and job growth significantly. The media has constantly pointed to studies released showing that there could be 0 per cent job growth and a small bump in GDP from the TPP as a reason that the deal is bad. Economists will tell you that free trade deals lead to 0 per cent change in employment in most models because the jobs lost in some sectors are gained in others. No, 0 per cent job growth is not the reason that free trade is bad. What you’re doing is looking at the wrong picture. Economists will point to cheaper and better products as the main reasons to sign free trade agreements.
Now that brings me to the actual substance of the TPP deal. It’s incredibly ambitious and is one of the more complex trade deals due to the sheer number of countries involved. Due to its ambitious nature and the amount of negotiation involved, the deal isn’t perfect. This means that there is, in fact, room for discussion on the deal. The issue has been, throughout this entire saga, is that the loudest mouths have constantly been debating from a place of either willful or negligent ignorance. If people like Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, and Elizabeth Warren would let the experts talk about the details of the deal, more people could have a more informed picture of the TPP. So, if you’re vehemently against the TPP, I ask that you start reading the reports and studies done by the experts and then form an opinion.