The Trans Pacific Partnership is a mammoth '6000' page agreement reached in private among 12 developed Pacific Rim nations, including Canada and the USA, comprising 40% of the world's denominated economic activity. The agreement is championed as a trade deal, but it is much more; stretching into the realms of health services, consumer protection, environmental regulations, employment law, and much more. Opposition to this massive agreement is being voiced by many; including the Council of Canadians, Doctors Without Borders, and 350.org, The Canadian government proposes to hold hearings before ratification is considered in parliament sometime in the next two years. Beware.
Beyond the various technical issues that can be debated, such as intellectual property rights, dairy producers' quotas, and projected employment 'gains', there are deeper issues that relate to the very heart of democracies. While sometimes these concerns are represented as a loss of 'sovereignty', that language is misleading. The TPP (and the 'CETA' with Europe) erode fundamental democratic rights and institutions. Under these trade agreements governments, and those people who they represent, are substantially limiting or conceding the powers they have to govern 'themselves', and to resolve their own disputes fairly.
For community groups, advocacy groups, small enterprise, local governments, and others, the rule books are being totally re-written, principally by the international corporate elites. Joseph Stiglitz, the notable Amercican economist, made a bold appeal to oppose the TPP before an audience at UBC several weeks ago; arguing that it will simply fuel greater inequality. Henry Mintzberg, a prominent business professor at McGill, argues that it would consolidate 'corporate' power when what is needed is a re-balancing of the powers between private sector, public sector and the community-based sector of democratic societies. A piece in Rabble is most succinct.
Are you willing to 'sell' your liberty, and your democratic heritage? That is the bargain. The TPP sets out special rules for international players, such that people in a nation state may not intervene or limit the activities of Big Business, or may do so only up to a point. Disputes are not tried in a public court that is both independent and scrutinized by the people; for these players the 'arbitration' is in private, using hired international lawyers who may indeed be conflicted, and without right to appeal. The proposed TPP grants these elites such privileges with the promise that there will be more 'jobs'. Is this a new feudalism?
Democracy requires vigilance from citizens. Question authority.