Critics cry foul as new Trans-Pacific Partnership details emerge

Experts and newly seated government officials are combing through the fine print of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement — revealing almost two dozen side deals with other countries and provisions that have alarmed some privacy and trade advocates.

Devil is in the details say critics of trade deal's newly revealed fine print

Trade Minister promises consultations on TPP Trade Deal

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

Experts and newly seated government officials are combing through the fine print of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement — the full text of which was finally released Thursday, revealing almost two dozen side deals with other countries and provisions that have alarmed some privacy and trade advocates. 

The 6,000-page, 30-chapter document was first released by New Zealand, and includes deals worked out over five years by the TPP members — Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Personal information at risk?

Among its provisions, the deal looks to make e-commerce easier by protecting "cross-border transfer of information ... including personal information," for business purposes. 

New Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seen with Gov. Gen. David Johnston, right, are being challenged to publicly state where they stand on the TPP after text of the trade deal was released. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

But critics say that wording may override laws like those in B.C. and Nova Scotia that keep government information such as health data and other personal details on servers within Canada to keep people's information safe.

Some fear that information will be accessible to U.S. or other foreign authorities without suitable oversight. 

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

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

The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association also spoke out about the TPP, saying in a release it "contradict[s] the domestic data storage provisions in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act." 

Copyright changes

The TPP deal also extends copyright terms from 50 years after an author's death to 70 years without expanding fair use; the limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission. This will keep works out of the public domain for decades, a consequence Geist calls a "massive loss" for Canada.

The TPP deal "confirms our worst fears," agreed Josh Tabish of the advocacy group OpenMedia in a statement.

Foreign takeovers 

Businesses in TPP countries will have an easier time buying Canadian companies, the text reveals.

The deal allows foreign investors to put more money into the takeover of a Canadian company — $1.5 billion, up from the current threshold of $600 million — without being subject to scrutiny from Investment Canada. 

Investments above that limit must, under government rules, pass the so-called "net benefit" test that deems the deal good for Canada's economy. 

Side letters

The TPP also includes numerous side letters, or one-on-one sub-agreements between nations. Canada has 23 side letters with nine TPP members. 

In one such deal with the U.S., Canada has agreed to share information on the illicit trade of counterfeit and pirated goods. A sub-agreement with Japan protects exports of B.C. logs, and makers of Canadian whiskey won some protections as well. 

However, dairy farmers and some in the auto sector say the detailed language of the TPP favours foreign competitors.

Obama ready to sign 

U.S. officials were quick to praise the deal on social media while launching their own staunchly pro-American website to house the full text of the TPP, while Ottawa has directed Canadians to a release from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

U.S. labour representatives, who had already voiced opposition to the deal, say the agreement contains weak, poorly worded or unenforceable provisions.

This 'TPP Made In America' logo adorns the U.S. website promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. U.S. President Barack Obama says he is ready to sign the extensive agreement, a day after the full text was released for the first time. (United States government )

"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, told reporters on a conference call after examining the full text of the pact.

Likewise, Canada's largest private-sector union, Unifor, called on the new Liberal government to revise the provisions it says will damage key Canadian industries. 

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

Newly named trade minister Chrystia Freeland said she will need time to go over all the documents, and encouraged Canadians to do the same. Prime Minister Trudeau has promised "a full and open public debate in Parliament."

With files from Reuters