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Home » Officer Columns » Vice President from Canada » Trans-Pacific Partnership—Harper’s Deal with the Devil

Trans-Pacific Partnership—Harper’s Deal with the Devil

  -  AFM Vice President from Canada

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has eclipsed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as being the new “gold standard” of global trade. And while it may take years to sign, ratify, and implement, the final agreement remains carefully under wraps. Once signed, the TPP will become the world’s largest economic trade agreement, encompassing more than 40% of the world’s GDP. The 12 parties to the TPP are: the United States, Canada, Chile, Australia, Peru, Mexico, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore. What does this mean for us?

Negotiating practically in secrecy, the Harper administration continues to execute the plans of 2007 in a methodical destruction of arts and culture and the labour movement. While zealously pursing the privatization of publicly-owned entities, all in favour of the insatiable corporate greed of his big business buddies.

The most sinister aspect is that the TPP erects a “one size fits all” economic system designed to advantage the largest transnational corporations. Once documents had been obtained through WikiLeaks, UNIFOR was the first to respond realizing that 20,000 jobs were in jeopardy due to forcibly relaxed Canadian content requirements in the auto industry. Those same documents reveal that all State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) must be subject to “commercial considerations,” while abandoning their role of providing the public good. SOEs are not allowed to get government support or noncommercial assistance, support that is often essential for SOEs that provide public functions that are not profitable or are even loss-making.

That means the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), National Film Board, and Canada Post are vulnerable, and under the yet-to-be-revealed terms of the partnership, may be subject to forced privatization or even foreign ownership. Can Hydro and the Health Care Industry be far behind? Then there is the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB), already privatized by the government in 2012. The CWB is now owned by G3 Global Grain Group, a Winnipeg-based partnership between US agribusiness giant Bunge Ltd. and Saudi Arabia’s SALIC Canada Ltd. SALIC Canada is a subsidiary of Riyadh-based Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company, Saudi Arabia’s main agriculture investment vehicle.

But even in this witches brew of deceit of Canadians lies some good news. Canada’s negotiators were forced to completely cave on issues of intellectual property. A leaked draft of the TPP mandates that countries create “legal incentives” for Internet service providers (ISPs) to do their own copyright policing online, deleting outright any online content deemed to be unfavourable—including the removal of entire websites—and even terminating access to the Internet. However, Canada’s “Notice and Notice” regime is being allowed only because it was already in existence, and no other country had the largesse to include such weak provisions.

If ratified, the TPP also extends copyright on works created by individuals from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years, and by corporations from creation plus 50 years to publication plus 95 years, or creation plus 120 years. The TPP would also bring in tougher rules for “fair use” exceptions from copyright law, making it much more difficult for teachers to copy parts of books for educational purposes, and for journalists to quote copyrighted materials in news articles. In other words, the US influence on the negotiations was the stronger in terms of IP, resulting in a closing of the gap between Canada’s so-called “balanced copyright” approach (in other words, screw the creators) and the much more stringent Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of the US.

The IP section continues with a general ban on the circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM), or the supply of devices for doing so.

Air Travel

On a more positive note, the CFM has been actively lobbying government and the aviation industry for parity with the US policy for instrument carry-on that was achieved by AFM President Ray Hair and Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard. While the request for parity is still under review and on the agenda, Air Canada has apparently been listening and has voluntarily amended its policy.

Musicians with carry-on instruments that will fit in the overhead bins will now be afforded priority boarding, so that they may easily and safely stow instruments before other passengers. In addition, those musicians with very large instruments, who normally purchase an extra seat rather then check the instrument as oversize luggage, will be able to do so with a 50% discount.

The CFM will continue to work toward complete parity, as well as to provide assistance to FIM in its efforts to do the same in Europe. I would like to give special thanks to CFM Executive Director Liana White and International Representative Allistair Elliott who worked tirelessly with our Ottawa lobbyist and are directly responsible for this excellent result.

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