Opinion: Being Against the TPP Doesn’t Mean You’re Against Free Trade

There’s been a rise of opinions amongst supporters of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that needs to be addressed. The opinion is that if you are against the TPP for whatever reason, that automatically means you are against free trade. Drew Wilson tackles this assumption head on.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

We’ve been following the TPP very closely for years now. While it has been extremely secretive in that no draft has ever been officially made public, we are able to gain some insight into the agreement through various leaks that have happened in the past already. We became concerned over the intellectual property chapter which would, among other things, bring in a global three strikes law and put in place SOPA-style censorship on the Internet through ISPs. Another leak was the investment chapter which would create a global legal system for corporations so they don’t have to abide by local laws as they operate within any given country. In another leak, we learned that the TPP would further restrict any form of fair dealings/fair use provisions already in place in copyright laws in various jurisdictions. I can assure you these are just a few of the many criticisms levied against the agreement today.

The question then becomes, how are people who support the secret treaty responding to such criticisms? Some are apparently just ignoring the criticisms altogether and have chosen to simply say that those who criticize the TPP are merely against free trade. In a Wall Street Journal article documenting some of the protests against the TPP in Japan, the headline reads “Anti-Free Traders to Copy Anti-Nuke Protestors in Weekly Tokyo Demos”. In another instance in Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada decided to include this in an attack ad against the NDP where they simply say that such agreements merely increase exports. Search around enough, and you can find this sort of opinion keeps appearing from time to time.

The opinion closely mirrors another opinion that any free trade agreement is automatically good for the global economy and everyone should automatically presume that it should be supported no matter what. Just look around any publication that is heavily geared towards big corporations and business that discusses the TPP and you’ll find this theme appearing as well.

What these opinions do is merely deflect attention away from the real issues of these agreements. I don’t believe you can simply say that if you oppose certain agreements because of any reason automatically means you are just against free trade. You can support free trade without supporting something like the TPP. Besides, if free trade agreements like the TPP are so great and wonderful, why are they secret to the public while mega-corporations are allowed to access it along side the negotiators? If a free trade agreement is so good for everyone, then there shouldn’t be any hesitation to share it with the public. What do these negotiators have to hide? Wait, supporters don’t have to answer that. These negotiators have to hide it because it has all these unprecedented provisions that would set every country back hundreds of years in terms of economic and technological growth. Countries will be tied down by mega corporations who will get the chance to pillage any country for their resources as they see fit and leave nothing left for everyone else.

I say that if negotiators should just grow a pair and publish the current draft of the TPP in full because it’s cowardly to hide behind closed doors at this stage. The least the negotiators could be, at this point, is honest for a change. As for supporters who simply rely on saying that opponents to TPP are against free trade, come back when you’re ready to debate the issues.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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