International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.

International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015.
Photo Credit: PC / Sean Kilpatrick

Chrystia Freeland’s TPP tightrope act

Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland has quite a balancing act on her delicate hands when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

On the one hand, the former top-notch journalist, turned politician, has to balance the fact that the trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including the massive American and Japanese economies, creates what has been described as the world’s largest free trade zone. 

For an export-oriented economy like Canada getting unfettered access to all these new markets should be good news, at least in theory.

Worst public policy decision?
Jim Balsillie, the businessman who helped to build Research in Motion, said the federal government should have dispatched a more sophisticated negotiating team for the deal.
Jim Balsillie, the businessman who helped to build Research in Motion, said the federal government should have dispatched a more sophisticated negotiating team for the deal. © via CBC

But the deal, signed by the previous Conservative government on Oct. 5 in the middle of the election campaign,  has come under criticism not only from the “usual suspects”  – trade unions, farmer groups, and the Council of Canadians – but also from the likes of Jim Balsillie.

The businessman who helped build Research In Motion into a $20-billion global player says the deal could cost Canada hundreds of billions of dollars.

“I’m not a partisan actor, but I actually think this is the worst thing that the Harper government has done for Canada,” the former co-chief executive of RIM said in an interview with The Canadian Press back in November after studying large sections of the 6,000-page document.

“I think in 10 years from now, we’ll call that the signature worst thing in policy that Canada’s ever done…

“It’s a treaty that structures everything forever — and we can’t get out of it.”

Balsillie told The Canadian Press his concerns about the deal include how it would impose intellectual property standards set by the U.S., the biggest partner in the treaty.

He fears it would give American firms an edge and cost Canadian companies more money because they would have to pay for someone else’s ideas instead of using their own, Balsillie said.

Canada has no veto

But by Freeland’s own admission renegotiating the TPP is not in the cards.

“At the moment with TPP, we as a government inherited a deal which had already been negotiated, in very intense and difficult negotiations with 12 countries,” Freeland told reporters Thursday after a meeting at the University of Montreal as part of her cross-country consultations on TPP. “The negotiations are finished and for Canadians it’s important to understand that it’s a decision of yes or no.”

While her predecessor, Ed Fast, actively promoted the deal he worked to negotiate, Freeland characterized herself this week as being in “listening mode.” She met Alberta farm groups Monday, other concerned stakeholders in Vancouver Tuesday, university experts in Montreal Thursday and has more consultations set for the Toronto area over the next few days.

“This is a very big, complex agreement. I’ve heard from some stakeholders that they’re only now starting to digest it and starting to understand which parts of it will be relevant to them,” she said, admitting to reporters in Vancouver that her stakeholder discussions Tuesday revealed some things that were news to both her and her officials.

She declined to specify exactly what.

All 12 signatories to the TPP have two years to ratify it, but the treaty could come into force if the United States, Japan and four other countries give their approval, Freeland said.

“It’s important for us to understand that we don’t have a veto,” she said.

Intense debate

The key moment in determining whether the treaty goes into force is parliamentary ratification, Freeland said.

“Only with parliamentary ratification in Canada can the treaty come into force for us,” Freeland said. “And having spoken with the trade ministers of all the TPP countries, I expect there to be a very intense debate and consultation process in all the TPP countries.”

But Freeland said the Liberal government hasn’t set a date yet for parliamentary hearings on TPP or a final vote. Freeland also hasn’t announced whether she will attend the formal signing Feb. 4 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Freeland said the key date is ratification, not the formal signing. But her parliamentary secretary, David Lametti, said in order to ratify, Canada would have to sign the deal.

“So we’ll go through each step one at a time,” Lametti said.

He insisted that for now the priority for the government is to consult with all the stakeholders before it makes up its mind.

Meanwhile, Freeland said the complexity of the TPP hasn’t dampened the government’s enthusiasm for ratifying a trade deal with the European Union known as Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), pointing out that the ratification was one the priorities set our for her in the mandate letters she received from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I think CETA will be really the gold standard of trade agreements. I’m working hard on it and I’m confident we will get a deal soon,” she said.


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5 comments on “Chrystia Freeland’s TPP tightrope act
  1. Avatar MARLENE TRAVIS says:

    Legal scholars of the TPP have warned that the countries who sign it will give up their sovereignty to the TPP multi-national tribunals. What that means that any of our laws that are seen to impinge on a corporations ability to profit can be overturned and we taxpayers will foot the bill for the damages they purportedly suffer.

    To approve this bill is to approve treason against our government’s laws.

    Marlene Travis Vancouver

  2. Avatar David E.H. Smith says:

    TPP & other Global Corporate Treaties/’Arrangements’; So what if the 6 years of negotiations was secret,
    – U.S. president George H.W. Bush regarding the U.S. ‘reneging’ on the FTA Foray with Canada.

    Living with Litigious & Anti-Tort Corporate ‘America’;
    So, You’ve Never Been Secretly Sued Before Off the Top of National Budgets to Increase value of corporate shares & dividends…

    TPP, et al, base for future changes for what Global Corporate Economy; your tax dollars to fund their enterprises & value of shares with No Corporate Liabilities & their future considerations…

    …One of the things that the 95% – 99% of Canadians who make up the grassroots of Canada & who cannot afford to be shareholders of corporate Canada in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), etc., & the other non-shareholding citizens of the potential signatories of the TPP, such as Australia, might consider remembering is a remark by former U.S. president George H.W. Bush regarding the arrangements between corporate America & corporate Canada in the NAFTAgreement,
    that is:
    “Well, you should have known”.

    Did he mean that the Canadian politicians, &/or, the members of corporate Canada that Bush was dealing with should have asked him (Bush) if all of the relevant contingencies had been discussed, understood & agreed upon, including dispute mechanisms & escrow accounts, funded by corporate Canada & corporate America, set up to cover the costs of adjudicating any dispute resolutions and
    to pay for any punitive penalties, &/or, damages prior to finalizing any deals, arrangements, treaties, agreements, et al.

    Or, did President Bush mean that the aforementioned Canadians representatives did do their due diligence & it was the Canadian representatives who should
    have told the aforementioned 95% – 99% of the grassroots Canadians that the above due diligence procedures were in place, but, the grassroots Canadians have to pay the costs of procedures & penalties because they, the grassroots
    Canadians, had not thought to inquire that the procedures were in fact “in-place”, & thereby, ensure that the aforementioned procedures, etc. would ensure that the either, corporate Canada, or, corporate America would pay for both; the penalties & the procedures.

    Or, should the grassroots of Canada have known that corporate America had no intention of honoring parts of the treaty right from the start, but the US- Canada
    Agreement (NAFTA) was quickly ratified with suggestions that any deficiencies, or,
    “forget-me-nots”, etc. to the agreement would be amicably settled on an on-going basis?

    Therefore, when it comes to any present arrangement, treaty, &/or, agreement that may have anything to do with corporate American, such as; the TPPartnership, law enforcement, etc., we now know better, but, now, do not ask, or,
    insist that the enforceable procedures, penalties, escrow funding from corporates Canada & corporate America, et al, be agreed upon by the grassroots Canada in a series of plebiscites prior to proceeding any further?

    And, if corporate Canada fails to provide the plebiscites, et al, when will the grassroots be enabled to sue both of the corporate Canada’s escrow accounts which corporate Canada will have to set aside the funds for the grassroots
    legal funds as a prerequisite (ie. to investigate & prosecute…

    (Edited) Or, did President Bush mean that the U.S. would make sure that corporate Canada would get its “future considerations” for the U.S.’s reneging on the soft lumber dispute mechanisms of NAFTA by enabling Canada to recoup its losses at Japan’s expense via the TPP?

    What the TREATY of VERSAILLES was to the 20th century PALES in COMPARISON to the TPP, CETA, C-CIT, NAFTA, et al, in the 21st.
    …For the FULL ARTICLE,
    To SHARE Information & Questions re; The Relationship between Human (Nature) Rights & Economics in 1) Native Canadian Treaties and 2) the C-CI Treaty,
    the CET Agreement, the TPPartnership, et al, via The WAD Accord
    Also See;
    SECRET TPPartnership, CETA & C-CIT TRIBUNALS are INSIDER TRADING; corp. Canada fears China may Blow “Arrangements” between Can. Lobbyists’ Clients & Parties’ Executives (W.A.D. Accord*)? NON Shareholders HAVE TO PAY the arranged PENALTIES. Repatriating off-shore; profits, goods & services contracts, financing, etc. and co-manufacturing still not on the table? LINE UP to “PRE” IPOs SHOrtens.
    *** Please consider sharing the enclosed information & questions with 10 friends who will share it with 10 others & so on…
    Also see;
    Global Treaties Not about How Much Trade, but, How to & Who to Trade with to ‘Undermine’ AIIB.
    Will China, Iran, the Muslim World, et al, Support Putin in Suits?

  3. Avatar David E.H. Smith says:

    TPP, et al; Corporate ‘America’ Desperate ‘Extortion’; Join in U.S. Increasing Avaricious $17+ trillion Debts to harmless taxpayers, or, Scorched Earth, Global Depression?

    Is ‘The Submission’ to The Supreme Court of Canada, et al, ‘unnecessarily’ delaying the TPP, CETA, et al?

    * What happened to new Canadian PM Trudeau’s (Corporate Canada East) promise to read, understand, share his understanding of TPP with consultation & questions from the taxpayers? Have Trudeau & Freeland read the TPP?

    * Should Politicians Have to Sully Their ‘Beliefs’ & Sales Pitches with ‘Sordid’ Facts that Come from Actually Reading & Understanding Global Treaties/’Arrangements’? Just the Facts; ‘We’, The People can Draw our Own Conclusions? Unless they’ve been paid via ‘future considerations’…
    2 Republican Senators Admit that They Have read the TPP.
    Congress/Parliaments; Deluded, or, Deluding; ‘IGNORAMUS et IGNORABIMUS’ (I do not know & I will Not Know)?
    ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodies’? (Who Will Guard the Guards?)

    * Do ‘We’ want ‘Good Corporate Citizens’, or, more of Corporate Global assocs. to Punish the harmless taxpayers & complete the Info Deprivation?

    FULL Article, see;

  4. Avatar TIm says:

    TPP agreement made sense when commodity prices were high. No what is left of manufacturing will fall a victim to the lower wages destinations like Vietnam

  5. Avatar Leslie says:

    doing this deal will essentially be losing all our rights as a nation to control our resources. We the public understand this without being allowed to read the document. This deal is set up to give the corporate elite more power and scratch away liberty from the people. Same thing with the FEPA agreement. A behind closed doors agreement to give ultimate power to corporations over our resources which ultimately controls everything we value in Canada. No veto over anything.. really how smart is that. Les