Alex Binkley on TPP

The Binkley Report

Alex Binkley is a foremost political and economic analyst, whose website is He has also recently published his first novel, Humanity's Saving Grace.

Harper's secrecy leaves TPP with a credibility gap

With ominous signs for Canada's freedom to trade

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

Image: Wikileaks Trans-Pacific-Partnership logo.As details dribble out about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that foundered in Maui in early August, the more the Harper government’s fetish for secrecy is apt to come back to haunt it.

So far the government has been fortunate that the deal has not attracted any public attention in the October 19 election campaign other than NDP trade critic Don Davies’ sharp criticism of the tactic of keeping Canadians in the dark about what’s in the 29 chapters of the deal. The government gets away with vague promises of increased access to a market of 800 million and 40% of the world trade while being silent on the price tag for Canada.

We’ve known for a long time that dairy and poultry supply management would take a hit. Since then the price tag has been steadily escalating to include what’s left of the auto industry, the CBC, Canada Post, any possibility of a national pharmacare program or better access to generic drugs. The latest release centers on Internet services and intellectual property protection. Other damaging details could well be flushed out in the coming weeks.

Wickileaks has been releasing details of the earlier negotiations and now a U.S. non-governmental organization, Knowledge Ecology International, has provided a May 11 version of the TPP, which shows many issues were far from agreement by the 12 would-be signatory nations. Much of the time between then and Maui was taken up in U.S.-Japan bilateral talks that left the issues of the other countries on the backburner.

Image: Cover of Humanity's Saving Grace, a novel by Alex Binkley. Click to purchase at Amazon.caThen there was the Globe and Mail story about business groups being told by a senior Harper aide to be ready to cheer loudly about the TPP deal to drown out the complaints from the dairy farmers. The Globe doesn’t seem to have learned poultry producers are also involved. One might expect our business leaders to be more interested in finding out how the trade agreement would affect them than being government cheerleaders.

The concept of freer trade among Pacific Rim countries sounds good. But the determination of the United States and Japan to stack the deck in their favour compared to the other 10 countries doesn’t auger well for anyone other than some large multinationals that don’t want to be bothered with pesky national rules and standards.

If the TPP is to come together, then a deal has to be reached before the end of the September. It still could happen especially if the NAFTA partners can resolve their disagreements on automobile manufacturing. We should be learning about what’s at stake in the deal in a more forthright manner than leaks to newspapers.