Critics slam fine print in newly released Trans-Pacific Partnership text

Opponents of the fine print of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have come out swinging after the full text of the trade agreement, negotiated for years in secrecy, was released. Many are challenging the new Liberal government to decide to what extent, if any, it will throw its support behind the deal.

The devil is in the details say critics fearful that deal will violate Canadians' privacy

Trade Minister promises consultations on TPP Trade Deal


6 years ago
New International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canadians can read the TPP text on the government website 1:48

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership came out swinging on Thursday after the full text of the trade agreement, negotiated in secrecy over five years, was finally released.

Many have challenged the new Liberal government, specifically Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland on whether they back the deal as it stands.

The document, about 6,000 pages long and released by New Zealand first, also includes 23 side letters between Canada and other countries involved in the deal — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The first wave of objections to the text in Canada had hit the public sphere by mid-day Thursday.

Intellectual property and protection of Canadians' private information emerged as issues of widespread concern, and drew demands for further study and public input before the deal is ushered through Parliament.

According to a tool created by the Washington Post that made the TPP searchable, the word "privacy" shows up most notably in the deal's telecommunications, electronic commerce and intellectual property chapters.

Privacy concerns

The language in the e-commerce chapter "fuels uncertainty" over Canadians' privacy, says Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor who has raised concerns about the TPP.

Provinces such as British Columbia and Nova Scotia have laws to keep government information (such as health data) and personal information within the country to keep people's information safe. The TPP language may limit the ability of governments to mandate local data storage.

In order to make it easier for businesses to use electronic commerce for trade, it states that the trade deal includes provisions to protect "cross-border transfer of information by electronic means, including personal information, when this activity is for the conduct of the business."

The agreement's ambiguous language makes it possible for TPP members to override countries' use of local servers for data storage.

The reason for local data storage – often called data localization – typically stems from mounting concerns over surveillance activities.

There are fears that if information is no longer allowed to stay on local servers under the language of the trade deal, it will cross the U.S. border and will be accessible to U.S. authorities without suitable privacy protections or oversight. 

Since U.S. law provides less privacy protection to foreigners, there is indeed limited legal recourse for Canadian data held in the U.S.

"These are rules that create restrictions on a country's ability to establish privacy safeguards," Geist said.

The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association spoke out about the deal, saying it specifically goes against provincial law requiring people's sensitive data be stored in Canada.  

Copyright changes

"Today, it was revealed that the electronic commerce chapter of the TPP does indeed directly contradict the domestic data storage provisions in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act," the group said in a release. 

"We cannot abide agreements that put our local laws at risk," added B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association president Michael Markwick. "This is simply unacceptable."

The language of the TPP deal extends the term of copyright from 50 years after an author's death to 70 years without expanding fair use, keeping works out of the public domain for decades, critics argue.

"Today's release of the full TPP text confirms our worst fears," said Josh Tabish of OpenMedia, a grassroots organization fighting for open information on the internet.

Geist said the TPP text confirmed a "massive loss to Canadian public domain." The 20-year extension will result in hundreds of millions in cost, he said.

Eases restrictions on foreign takeovers 

If parties from one of the TPP members wants to buy a part of or an entire Canadian company, under the trade deal it will be easier. 

It allows foreigners to invest more money into a takeover without underscrutiny from Investment Canada. 

Under the pact, investments in Canadian companies of less than $1.5-billion by companies from countries that have signed the TPP will not be subject to Investment Canada examination, the text of the agreement says.
Currently, a takeover bid will be scrutinized at $600-million, and will rise to $800-million by 2017.

There's a number of side letters

In addition to the 6,000 pages of text from the TPP, there are also numerous side letters, or sub-agreements, between nations. Canada has 23 side letters with almost all the TPP countries. 

In a deal with the U.S. the two countries have agreed to share information on cases of illicit trade of counterfeit and pirated goods. 

With Japan, a deal to protect exports of B.C. logs. 

Obama ready to sign 

U.S. officials were quick to praise the deal on social media, while launching their own steadfastly pro-American website to house the full text of the TPP. 
According to Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, the strategy of the new government is to direct people to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade version, what they referred to as the TPP depository.
The deal was touted by some for its positive effects. The U.S. government presented it on its own website and officials there were intent on selling the deal on Thursday, saying the agreement will create jobs and stoke the U.S. economy. 
U.S. unions, lawmakers and interest groups questioned the long-awaited text on Thursday, setting up a potentially difficult path to ratification by the U.S. as well.

"It's worse than we thought," Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, told reporters on a conference call after examining the full text. 
U.S. labor representatives, who had already voiced opposition to the deal, said the agreement contained weak, poorly worded or unenforceable provisions.
"There are improvements, but we do not believe those improvements are significant or meaningful for workers," Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, said on the same call.

President Barack Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress in a letter on Thursday that he intends to sign the deal.

"I know that if you take a look at what's actually in the TPP, you will see that this is, in fact, a new type of trade deal that puts American workers first," Obama wrote on a website dedicated to the full text of the TPP.
President Barack Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress in a letter on Thursday that he intends to sign the deal.

The notice starts a 90-day clock before his signature triggers the next step in a process of seeking final 
congressional approval. 

Canada's brand new trade minister, Chrystia Freeland, said she will need time to go over all the documents, and encouraged Canadians to do the same. 
There will be various hurdles to clear before this is a done deal, but Trudeau has promised …..

Eyes turn to new Liberal government

The deal is shaping up as one of the most controversial items on the new government's agenda.

"It's up to Justin Trudeau to decide whether he'll implement this bad deal, or actually take a stand for Canadians," Tabish said on Thursday.

The Liberals, before assuming power, criticized the Conservative government for a lack of transparency regarding what Canada may have given up in the TPP negotiations, but said they support the notion of free trade.

Trudeau, in a statement on Oct. 5, promised "a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement."

More recently, Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by telephone and agreed to promote the deal.

"Prime Minister Trudeau can't promise open consultations here and then tell others behind closed doors that he'll be able to push the deal through," said NDP MP Don Davies in a press release.

On Thursday, Freeland said she had printed out all 6,000 pages of the deal to familiarize herself with it.

"It is immense — thousands and thousands of pages," the new trade minister said, adding that there will be a place where Canadians can send their comments about the deal. "We're going to take that seriously and we're going to review it."

With files from Reuters


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