Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Things We Are Not Supposed To Know Or Think About

While The Star's David Olive recently wrote an article extolling the economic benefits of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, others strongly suggest the need for extreme caution, not just because of potential job losses, but also due to the very real losses in national sovereignty that will ensue if the agreement is ever finalized.

Consider the following from The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur, who argues that the secrecy behind the negotiations is understandable, given that its benefits will redound not to the people, but to the multinational corporations. While speaking from an American perspective, his observations are equally applicable to Canada:

As well, Star readers sound these notes of caution about free trade agreements:

Trade pact coming, despite opposition, June 19
David Olive’s championing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is so wrong-headed, I hardly know where to begin. In suggesting that state authority and power in developing countries should rather give way to corporate power, he is doubling down on the proven dysfunction of such corporate hegemony, in terms of income inequality, and the impact on workers and the environmental.

To suggest that countries will be better off in a corporate-dominated world is naive at best. His assertion that Canada has really done fine as a result of free trade so far is also an amazingly blinkered view of reality.

Even measured in that narrowest of measures, GDP, we have not done as well in the last 20 years as we did in the “protectionist” era of the 1950s through 1970s. When you look at distribution of this GDP, it is obvious that middle class families have not benefited at all.

John Simke, Toronto

Free-trade agreements are based on the premise that if every country exports what it makes most efficiently and if governments clear the way for market forces to engage in transactions, then everyone will be better off. However, in practice, only multi-national corporations have benefited from free-trade agreements as national interests are undermined.

Taxes are lowered, public services are cut, wages are downgraded, environmental protection is weakened, and regulations are abolished. In short, economic activities have taken precedent over other considerations, such as social justice and national democratic mandates.

The European and North American experiences have shown how, under free trade, governments lose the ability to be responsive to the national needs. Under NAFTA, the Chapter 11 clause has allowed investors to launch successful legal challenges against governments, undermining their efforts to enforce environmental, health or safety standards.

The free trade arrangements worked for the West in the follow up to World War II. However, in the complex 21st century world, they are no longer working. We should come up with a way to regulate the damage done by free trade without undermining its advantages.

Ali Orang, Richmond Hill

Trade deals a big threat to Medicare, Letter June 21
I sincerely hope that the Star is mustering its considerable investigative talents to check out the alarming allegations in Professor Meyer Brownstone’s letter. He claims that the new Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) “includes health among services to be shifted to the corporate sector in a wholesale global privatization process that includes education, prisons and other public services.” He also claims that “all participants are sworn to secrecy for five years even if the negotiations fail.”

Thanks in advance for your excellent service in this and so many other secretive and complex matters.

Jean Gower, Kingston
And so the world moves on, not always for the better, while we sleep.


  1. A succession of global or regional trade agreements like this have been instrumental in the rise of both national and international corporatism, commensurate with the steady dilution of state sovereignty. A nation's sovereignty is the crown jewel of democracy held in trust by government on behalf of its populace. That it has been so loosely frittered away in a few paragraphs buried deep in the bowels of successive trade agreements is treasonous.

    Chretien knew this but he quickly capitulated on winning office as has every prime minister since and, in all likelihood, many to come.

    This truth is manifested in today's political class, a sea of grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard, and in the steady but considerable shrinking of the political spectrum. With essential incidents of sovereignty erased, governance becomes mere administration - the preserve of technocrats, petit fonctionnaires. Harper exemplifies this. His ideological soul mate, Tom Flanagan, admitted as much when he told an audience on Saltspring Island how Harper abhors "vision." For vision necessitates elements of forward thinking and regard for posterity and building a better tomorrow. All of these things pose restrictions on wanton, short termism and maximized production and consumption that resembles nothing so much as a raging malignancy in full metastasis.

    The corporatist state is deliberately bereft of everything needed to rise to such challenges as climate change, over-consumption and overpopulation, every conceivable solution to which impacts on growth, production and consumption. For our kids or at least the kids of the more vulnerable nations, it's a death sentence. However, even for us, it is the engine driving the wholesale transfer of economic and political power from the blue and white collar majority to the few who stand as the true beneficiaries of these malevolent pacts.

    1. It is small wonder, Mound, that negotiations for these pacts are conducted in absolute secrecy for the 'masses.' while privileged access goes to the corporations. Harper and the others are indeed in their element during this very sad time for democracy.

  2. Additionally, the TPP is set to strengthen both copyright and patent laws. The effects this would have on innovation would largely outstrip any gains that might be had from the agreement. To the government's credit they have been fighting the copyright portion.

    The USDA published a report that states the agriculture sections of the agreement will produce basically 0% GDP growth for the industrial nations involved:

    1. Thank you for the information and the link, Kisaragi. I do know that the patent protection being extended to pharmaceuticals will be very costly indeed for Canada, but that may all be part of the plan to starve medicare, no?