Canadians appear uneasy over Trans-Pacific deal

Canadians are split in their views of TPP, except the majority believe it will result in job loss. Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau will likely lead the ratification of the trade deal. 

REUTERS/Chris Wattie
Canada's Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau arrives at a ceremony to commemorate the October 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

In a new poll released Wednesday, Canadians appear deeply divided over the prospective Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that was finalized earlier this month.

About 41 percent of Canadians support TPP, while nearly the same amount, 38 percent, do not support it, a survey of 1,554 Canadians commissioned by The Asia Pacific Foundation (APF) of Canada has found. According to the APF, comparisons to previous polls show Canada has become increasingly skeptical of the agreement.

When asked whether TPP will benefit Canada’s economy, one-third said yes, while 31 percent said no. 15 percent said they the agreement would have a neutral effect. Yet the majority, 61 percent, believe TPP will lead to job loss.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, the deal is the culmination of nearly eight years of negotiations, and would dismantle major barriers to international trade, including tens of thousands of tariffs. Proponents of the agreement say it would introduce universal rules on corporate intellectual property, expand the free and open Internet, and hold accountable perpetrators of wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses. The deal also has profound implications for the pharmaceutical patents and drug costs in poorer countries.

But the negotiations were shrouded in secrecy and shunned outside interest groups and advocacy organizations. It also faces tough scrutiny in the United States by Democrats in Congress.  

Last week, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party swept Canada’s national election. According to The Toronto Star, Mr. Trudeau has criticized the secrecy surrounding the agreement, but supports free trade and will likely lead the ratification of TPP. At least one of his opponents vowed to vote against ratification.

In an interview with the Star, University of Iowa law professor Michael Geist said TPP could present a serious discrepancy between local law and the rules stipulated in the agreement, particularly when it comes to copyrights. Compared to other TPP countries, Canada allows for more free non-commercial use of copyrighted content, but the agreement says companies must adhere to court orders to remove content, without clarifying which courts, or where.    

And in a column on his website, Geist said the agreement includes two provisions that present privacy concerns. The first prevents TPP countries from “requiring the use of local servers for data storage,” which means Canadians’ private data could be prone to surveillance by US law enforcement. The second provision identified by Mr. Geist may fuel content blocking:

The TPP also establishes restrictions on the ability to limit data flows across borders, with the Canadian government characterizing the provision as "protecting the free flow of information across borders." While stopping Internet content blocking would an admirable goal, the TPP actually features provisions that might expand the ability of Internet providers to block content.

Privacy and copyright issues aren’t the only concerns. According to the CBC, TPP would open Canadian markets to more American milk produced from cows treated with hormones. Polls show the vast majority of Canadians are concerned about TPP’s effect on food quality and safety, and most prefer milk sourced from within their country.

And the deal could make it easier for companies to bring more foreign workers into Canada, while the Canadian auto industry is concerned TPP would cause the loss of 26,400 jobs.

But as The Monitor noted, the agreement is not a done-deal just yet: It must still be ratified by its 12 signatory countries before going into effect.

[Editor's note: The original version of this story misidentified the source that said previous polls show Canada has become increasingly skeptical of TPP.

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