Maple Ridge meeting opposes TPP

Organizer wants to change one part of Trans-Pacific Partnership

Maple Ridge group opposes TPP.

Maple Ridge group opposes TPP.

It’s not all negative for those opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country trade deal that will tighten trade links between Canada, the U.S. and across the Pacific.

For example, rather than toss out the entire deal signed last year by the Canadian government, Maple Ridge resident Ivan Chow just wants to remove what he considers one objectionable part of the deal.

It’s called the Investor State Dispute Settlement and according to Chow it’s a hold over from half a century ago and is no longer needed in the modern economy. That section allows foreign corporations to sue the governments if their policies hurt profits.

Chow said such clauses are leftovers from a previous time 50 years ago when trade deals were with countries that had unstable governments that could seize assets or nationalize companies.

“So these had been in place to protect their assets from being confiscated by foreign governments,” Chow said.

But now with stronger, more stable legal frameworks in most countries, such dispute settlements are no longer needed.

“Those reasons do not apply now,” said Chow. “Those mechanisms should not be in place.”

Chow was at the TPP Action Group meeting last week at St. Andrews Heritage Church and said later that he’s asking Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy to sponsor his petition that will call for the removal of that section from the TPP before Canada ratifies it.

Ruimy doesn’t have to agree with the goals of the petition, just be willing to sponsor it so Chow can bring it to the House of Commons.

Chow says the Canadian government already has paid out more than $200 million to foreign companies who’ve sued under the Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But the financial payments are not the sole motivation for a company to sue a government. “The real intent … is to stop anyone else, any other government, from launching similar legislation.”

He said about 30 people showed up at the April 26 meeting.

The group recently appeared at Maple Ridge council asking it to oppose the TPP. Nanaimo has recently come out against it.

“Most people don’t even know about the TPP,” said Chow. “I think the more people learn, the more people are concerned.”

He’s also concerned about other parts of the agreement, such as the expansion of the definition of a temporary foreign worker that will allow more labour to come into Canada.

Another section also strengthens patent protection rights, particularly concerning intellectual property rights. That will favour the advantage that the U.S. now has in information technology. “The TPP vastly expands the patent rights,” as in software or IT.

“By having an expansive interpretation of intellectual property rights you are bascially limited … by anyone who claims priority to what you think you might be doing.”

That would strengthen U.S. dominance in that field in the same way that the U.S. has in pharmaceuticals.

In a release from the TPP Action Group, Blair Redlin from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said that economists  predict a net job loss for Canada of 58,000 jobs.

“We don’t have to rush on this in Canada”, we should demand an independent economic analysis of the economic impact before we ratify.

“Why would we be opening ourself up to this kind of risk as a country?”

Ruimy, part of the Liberal government which signed the agreement, was at the meeting and said he’ll arrange another town hall meeting on the topic.