Saturday, December 5, 2015

Trans-Pacific Agreement text shows it is very damaging to some Canadian business areas

The Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) is a huge trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim countries that the former Harper Conservative government signed in October shortly before the recent election.
Although the Conservatives promised that they would release the text of the agreement before the election, they never did. The text of the agreement is now available here. It is interesting to browse through it. The agreement will allow individuals who have any connection to businesses from countries who are signatories to enter Canada on temporary permits for all sorts of purposes with no visas required.
Experts say the agreement will result in a flood of foreign workers coming to Canada. While this may help companies operating in Canada, it could also result in misuse, as has happened even before this agreement. There will no longer be the requirement that there is no Canadian available for the job before a foreign worker can be hired. While some companies simply went through the motions of looking for a Canadian, now they will not even need to do that and can no longer be held for breaking the law if they do not hire an available Canadian. This will be an invitation to bring in cheaper workers from any of the eleven other countries that are signatories to the deal.
However, in regulated professions, incoming workers may face problems meeting provincial regulations. In some instances such as dentistry, the consumer could end up having more choice or even cheaper services but no doubt the dental profession ruling body will try to prevent this by requirements that will be proclaimed as in the interest of the safety and well-being of their patients. While no doubt there is a need to ensure adequate safeguards so that only properly qualified professionals are allowed to practice, there should be some way of ensuring that those who set the regulations also consider the public interest in having sufficient dentists to choose from and reasonable prices.
On the release of the TPP text it became evident that the Canadian auto sector will be hurt more than realized. Jim Stanford economist for the giant Unifor union claims just the weakened regional content rules of the TPP will threaten 20,000 well-paying jobs in the auto sector alone. The TPP will have a larger negative effect on the dairy industry over time as well.
Jim Balsillie, who helped build the $20 billion dollar global business Research In Motion (now BlackBerry) claims provisions in the TPP could cost Canada hundreds of billions of dollars. He says signing the deal could be Canada's worst public policy decision in Canadian history. Balsillie said of the final text of the agreement: "It's such brilliantly systemic encirclement. I'm just in awe at its powerful purity by the Americans..."We've been outfoxed."He is concerned intellectual property provisions of the TPP favour the Americans and will force Canadians to use and pay for U.S. technology. Somewhat similar concerns are voiced by Michael Geist.
Geist also claims that in the technology sector, the TPP reflects a "made in America" approach that could put Canadian companies at a huge disadvantage: "My view, especially on some of these digital policy issues, is we spent the better part of a decade trying to craft rules that better reflect Canadian interests and Canadian sensibilities and we don't see those rules in this agreement."On privacy issues, the TPP would prohibit rules already in place that protect residents in British Columbia and Nova Scotia from U.S. surveillance by requiring government information such as health data be stored within Canada. The TPP outlaws such requirements. Geist also said the extension of copyright some 20 years to 70 years after the death of the creator will also generate real costs to Canadians. Geist is research chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.
A critique of the TPP by the Council of Canadians is available here. One by the CCPA is here. The TPP still has to be approved by parliament. While the Liberals may object to some parts of the agreement, it seems unlikely that they will reject the agreement and demand it be re-opened to change the document. This would encourage other countries to do the same. There is disagreement about the TPP in the U.S. as well, as shown on the appended video from the U.S.-based Democracy Now. A previous article in DJ argues the TPP will result in less democracy and less competition.

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