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What's in the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

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Canada, the United States, Mexico and nine other countries -- together representing more than 40 per cent of the global economy -- announced the conclusion of negotiations on the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership "free trade" deal this week. What's in that agreement and why should we be concerned?

Pharmaceutical patents

Bloomberg reports, "The agreement establishes at least a five-year minimum period during which brand-name drug companies have exclusive rights to sell treatments made from living organisms, known as biologics, after they've been approved. That's fewer than the 12-year exclusivity period granted under U.S. law, but is longer than the time frame now observed by many countries in the pact." The major concern here is that longer patent monopolies for transnational pharmaceutical corporations will delay the introduction of more affordable generic equivalents.

Auto parts

The Globe and Mail notes, "Domestic-content requirements for automobiles will be slashed from the 60 per cent now required under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The minimum content requirement for vehicles and 'core' and 'priority' parts will fall to 45 per cent of net value to qualify for duty-free access inside the TPP. The minimum threshold on all other auto parts will be 40 per cent." Unifor has expressed strong concern that if rules of origin requirements are eased that would mean that Japan could export more vehicles into North America with fewer parts manufactured in Canada. Unifor president Jerry Dias has warned that could cost 25,000 good-paying jobs in this country.

Dairy

The Globe and Mail reports, "Canada will give other TPP countries duty-free access to 3.25 per cent of its dairy market and 2.1 per cent of it chicken market. The new imports are expected to come mainly from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. ...Ottawa said Monday it will spend $4.3-billion over 15 years to compensate dairy, chicken and egg farmers, who are ceding what Canadian officials called 'limited access' to their now highly protected markets under the TPP deal." On Sept. 25, the CBC reported, "The American goal for dairy market access was nine or 10 per cent, a figure that prompts dairy industry folk to use words like 'enormous' and 'annihilation'. But even if Canadian negotiators successfully push back, an offer of even half [so 5 per cent] that would be huge."

Investor-state

The Globe and Mail adds, "[The TPP] also sets up dispute settlement guidelines between governments and foreign investors separate from national courts." An investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision allows corporations to sue democratically elected governments for lost future profits resulting from legislation and policies that protect the environment and public interest. This is crucial because corporations have used ISDS to challenge governments over 600 times. Given climate measures are susceptible to these challenges, the Council of Canadians has called for an exemption from ISDS challenges to be included in any climate agreement emerging from Paris later this year.

The text and ratification

The New Zealand Herald reports, "Details of the deal will be published later today." The Globe and Mail notes, "Canadian officials said a text of the tentative agreement would likely be released in the next few days. The final legal text is expected to take longer to complete." And the Toronto Star adds, "The deal, which Harper said would likely come up for ratification in Parliament in early 2016, thrusts the new international commitment squarely into the election campaign with two weeks until voting day."

For more on our campaign to defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership, please click here.

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