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The Progressive Economics Forum

Corporate rights masquerading as trade (again)

Anti-democratic investor rights deals are in the news again, thanks partly to a Communications Workers of America & Trade Justice Network event that brought Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to Canada. Professor Stiglitz pronounced the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “worst trade deal ever”, adding that provisions allowing multi-nationals to sue governments are particularly toxic.

Professor Gus van Harten pointed out that enacting the CETA and the TPP would dramatically increase the number of corporations that are allowed to sue Canadian governments. Canada is already the most sued nation under various investor state dispute settlement mechanisms. Under NAFTA, Canada has settled 4 investor claims for a cost of $150 million, lost 3 cases for a cost of about $48 million, and 7 cases are still ongoing as of 2015.  The problem with corporations suing governments is not only the cost, but the regulatory chill.

And Pia Eberhardt told us that the changes to CETA’s investor state dispute settlement mechanism didn’t fix the basic problems, calling it the zombie ISDS. She said that Canada’s experience with NAFTA was a big part of the reason Europeans were so mobilized against including similar mechanisms in their own deals.

The Broadbent Summit also hosted a panel on “The Free Trade Charade”, where Michael Geist, Ianik Marcil, Pia Eberhardt, and I explained why there was very little benefit to joining the TPP, but lots of risks.

The other reason that trade deals are in the news is because the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade wants to hear your views on the TPP. You are encouraged to send them a 1,500 word brief on how the TPP will impact you and your community at ciit-tpp-ptp@parl.gc.ca no later than April 30, 2016.

P.S. If you missed the Making Sense of the TPP event held at the University of Ottawa on April 1, the video is is available at: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/updates/what%E2%80%99s-big-deal-understanding-trans-pacific-partnership.

It includes the keynote address by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

The morning panel included:

  • Gus Van Harten, Associate Professor – Osgoode Hall Law School – Who has benefited financially from special privileges in the TPP for foreign investors in ISDS?
  • Meghan Sali, Digital Rights Specialist, Open Media – IP, copyright and Canada’s digital future
  • Scott Sinclair, Senior Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Trade and Investment Project – Democratic deficit: the TPP’s questionable legitimacy

The afternoon panel included:

  • Professor Ron Labonte, Canada Research Chair Globalization and Health Equity and Ashley Schram The TPP and health. Few gains, some losses and many risks
  • Jeronim Capaldo, Research Fellow Global Development and the Environment, Tufts University “Unemployment, Inequality and other Risks in the TPP”
  • Steven Shrybman, Goldblatt Partners “Does the TPP really advance labour rights?”
  • Pia Eberhardt, Researcher and Campaigner, Corporate Europe Observatory “Why are Europeans concerned about TPP’s little brother, the CETA?”

This event was hosted by the Trade Justice Network, CWA/SCA Canada, and the University of Ottawa’s School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and The School of International Development Studies.

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