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Trump’s stance shines a light on risky trade deals

Say what you will about Donald Trump – and there’s much being said – the new U.S. president took quick action on his promise to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump was elected in part on his anti-globalization stance, calling into question the mania for free trade and vowing to make his country more protectionist. In that regard, he was tapping into a growing public recognition that the game is rigged. Trump has a few things right when it comes to globalization, but the new direction he’s going may not lead where supporters think it will.

Be that as it may, his presidency will certainly challenge the established rhetoric about free trade deals, which long ago became more about intellectual property and superseding government rules than about simply trading goods.

The very hush-hush Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just the latest attempt to boost the failed policies of globalization at the expense of the majority of us.

So secretive were the talks, to which Canada was a latecomer, that even most politicians weren’t able to get information, despite the fact some 600 corporate lobbyists and insiders were privy to the negotiations. Those corporate types, in fact, framed much of the agenda.

The reason for all the secrecy? Not security or likewise dubious claims. No, proponents didn’t – and still don’t – want you to know because they feared the public backlash would kill the deal. The TPP simply doesn’t hold up to public scrutiny, as it’s bound to make the economy worse for most of the people in the countries involved.

While talks started under the former regime, the Trudeau Liberals quickly embraced by TPP and the troubling Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a free trade and copyright agreement between our country and the European Union. It, too, is rife with downsides, though the government continues to tout it as a job-creation scheme, just as all governments do with trade agreements that typically result in job losses and the hollowing out of the manufacturing sector.

In actuality, these latter-day trade deals are little more than scraping the bottom of the barrel for new sources of growth. CETA and TPP would simply add to the 30 years of growing global inequality that has been the legacy of free trade agreements.

Of course, calling them trade agreements is rather disingenuous. As the myriad critics note, the real goal is the ability to move capital with the intent of securing off-shoring jobs, intellectual property rights, extending  pharmaceutical patents to raise the cost of drugs and reduce access.

Language in existing deals such as NAFTA – now under fire from Trump – becomes even more pronounced in CETA and TPP, allowing for end-runs around national governments, essentially constraining their powers. In many ways, its continued deregulation by stealth, as governments would be handcuffed.

By continuing to pursue such deals, Ottawa is essentially agreeing to policy changes being forced on Canadians, changes that we don’t want and are harmful to most of us, whatever claims are made. If free trade proponents put as much energy into creating jobs as they do destroying the middle-class economy, there might actually be progress and prosperity.


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