Trump's no-TPP stance a boon for B.C. labour activists

Donald Trump says he'll pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office — and some B.C. labour activists are happy about that.

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has promised to withdraw from the trade deal on his first day in office

The Trans-Pacific Partnership was met with strong resistance particularly from labour activists. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Labour activists in B.C. are happy U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is saying goodbye to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump has promised to extract the United States from the trade deal on his very first day in office.

The trade agreement involves 12 countries around the Pacific Rim and has been negotiated for over seven years. A finalized proposal was signed earlier this year, but the agreement has not yet been ratified.

Trade deals have been used to drive down wages and benefits and that's been bad.- Irene Lanzinger, B.C. Federation of Labour

If the U.S. withdraws from the TPP Trump has promised, experts say the deal will likely fall apart.

The trade agreement had already met with criticism from labour activists in nearly all of the member countries.

Irene Lanzinger, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said the deal would have had a negative effect on B.C.

"The TPP allowed all kinds of things that would hurt workers in B.C.," she said. "It allowed corporations to bring in their own workers from other countries with no requirement that companies look for Canadian workers first."

A protester holds a placard during a 2014 rally against the TPP in Tokyo. The trade agreement has been met with resistance in its 12 member countries. (Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press)

Even though the deal had a labour chapter, Lanzinger said it was not good enough.

"Those labour provisions are so weak. There were no guarantees of basic workers' rights. There's no guarantees of salaries," she said.

Lanzinger said trade deals have historically been a tough sell for the labour movement.

"There has to be labour standards that require certain wages, certain benefits, permanency of jobs, some ability to hire locally and give jobs to people within particular countries. Trade deals have been used to drive down wages and benefits and that's been bad."

An economic blow

Not everyone is celebrating the end of TPP.

Dan Baxter, the policy director for the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said the loss of the deal is an economic blow for the province.

"TPP is a world class comprehensive trade agreement. It carries great benefit for agriculture, forestry products and  industrial goods," he said.

B.C. has a diversified trade portfolio with 50 per cent of exports going to the U.S. and a quarter heading to Asia, Baxter said.

The deal would have created billions of dollars of economic activity, he added.

Nevertheless, he said he has some hope a redesigned deal can go ahead with the remaining partners.

"We can still go ahead and have this economic benefit happen. There's still a lot of benefit to do that," he said.

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the segment, click on the link labelled What does the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership mean for B.C.?