An open letter to Tilly O’Neill Gordon, M.P. -Miramichi and Premier David Alward
I write to you on the subject of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the Canada/EU Trade Deal. After years of secret negotiations, both of these deals are in the final stages of negotiation. But most Canadians know little if anything about them because of the secrecy with which the negotiations have taken place. Although these agreements are called trade agreements, very few of the chapters under negotiation have to do with trade.
Many of the chapters outline how a government regulates corporate activity, what Crown corporations can and cannot do, how long pharmaceutical patents or copyright terms should be, how the Internet is governed, the sharing of personal information across borders, banking and taxation rules and when a company or investor should be compensated when environmental or public health policies interfere with profits. From information that has been leaked, it has been revealed that public health and access to medicines are threatened under both agreements.
Both agreements call for excessive patent protections that would guarantee making medication much more expensive and even inaccessible to some people. Health advocates are saying that it is a matter of life or death that people say no to such changes.
Both agreements threaten community-led public policy in that it would include an investor rights’ chapter and investor-state dispute process that would let companies sue governments in secret tribunals when public policies get in the way of profits. The policy could be legal, fair and indiscriminate and still face corporate lawsuits demanding hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars in compensation. Think it can’t happen? Just look at what is happening with NAFTA.
The Globe and Mail reports that Eli Lilly “has escalated a challenge it launched last year against Canada’s patent rules under the North American free-trade agreement, and is now demanding $500-million in compensation after the company lost its Canadian patents on two drugs.” Another U.S. company, Lone Pine Resources, is suing Canada for $250 million for Québec’s moratorium on fracking. Here are just two examples of what can happen when the ‘rights’ of multinational corporations are valued over those of local citizenry, and where those same multinational companies can legally sue our federal government for a projected loss of profits. And what can we do about it? Not a darn thing. These agreements put in place laws that are over and above our own legal system. Why sign other ‘trade’ agreements that can bring more of the same?
Though I have written to you both personally, I have yet to receive any specific information on how either the provincial or federal government plan to stand up for Canadian citizens by ensuring that the negotiations for these deals take place openly. As our elected representatives, I urge you both to demand that the details of the Canada/EU Trade Deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership be made immediately available for public review. After years of secret negotiating, it is time for the Canadian public to know exactly what it is we will be signing up for.
First published in the Miramichi Leader.