After all the complaining about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, until now no one actually knew what it said.
The text of the agreement, negotiated in secret by state leaders with their armies of bureaucrats and lawyers, has finally been released.
Few critics who complained about the TPP will bother to read the agreement. It is a 5,544 page monstrosity of rules and regulations. Reading such a thing is so boring it may cause aneurysms.
But even a cursory examination reveals that despite all pretense suggesting otherwise, the TPP has nothing to do with free trade.
Free trade policies can be imposed unilaterally by any country at any time, without any complex multilateral agreements. This requires only a few things:
- Legislatures must reduce or eliminate taxes on imports (tariffs) and import quotas.
- Legislatures must reduce or eliminate subsidies and other support to their exporters (such as foreign aid requiring purchases of goods from domestic producers).
- Governments must stop using customs agents to force citizens — at gunpoint, if necessary — to pay tax on goods they buy from other countries .
And that’s it.
In and of itself, a “free trade” document that exceeds 5,000 pages (more than twice as long as NAFTA!) must be regarded as an indicator of trade restrictions, regardless of what such an agreement is called .
Free trade policies can be summarized in less than a page: “Imports shall not be restricted. Exports shall not be restricted.” (You can make it a bit fancier if it’s really important to you that lawyers rack up a few more billable hours.)
The TPP, negotiated by the Canadian government in collaboration with the governments of the US, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia, is nothing less than the adoption of labyrinthine trade regulations and restrictions. Six other countries have expressed intent to join the TPP.
Rather than purely economic integration (which is good), the TPP represents political integration (which is bad) — harmonization of tax and regulatory structure across the member states and a decomposition of national sovereignty, especially in the realm of intellectual property. The TPP gives more power to those with the most political clout — which will never be Canadian citizens.
And the TPP allows unelected, power-hungry bureaucrats to bring lawsuits against Canadian companies if they ‘violate’ the agreement (the interpretation of which is not a simple matter).
Restrictions on trade imply only impoverishment. If Canada desires free trade, it should withdraw from the agreement and abolish all tariffs and quotas. Since exports pay for imports, this would enrich Canada and its trading partners.
And amazingly enough, this doesn’t require 5,000 pages of maze-like rules and regulations.