The TPP is About More Than Just Cows and Chickens

Now that Canada is either one step closer or in the TPP talks, the Canadian media have become much more interested in these talks as well. With the amount of leaked information about the TPP, you’d think we’d get a nice healthy discussion about copyright and the amount of power corporations are able to exert while operating on domestic soil. Apparently, not so much.

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

If you’ve been following ZeroPaid closely in the last few months, you know a lot about the TPP. The problem with Canadian media is that it is so often the case where if it doesn’t involve Canada directly, then it rarely makes the news. Case in point, the TPP. Before there was even a hint that Canada might be joining the TPP, the big news in Canada might revolve around the barbecue circuit or what a random cute fuzzy animal is doing in a zoo. This meant that if Canadians wanted to get informed about the big news that’s happening (like the latest defeat of ACTA), they’d have to rely on sites like ZeroPaid to fill them in.

Well, now that many see Canada’s step closer to being in the TPP talks, Canadian media outlets are finally more open to figuring out what this agreement is about. My thoughts on this was that this was a great thing. We can finally talk about all the horrible copyright provisions or the scary investment chapter which could elevate multinational corporations power over Canadian businesses as they both operate on Canadian soil.

Of course, this is what I thought would happen.

The National Post wrote the following:

Most Canadians do not get particularly exercised about agricultural supply management. To many observers, it seems obscure and abstract. But as recent events at the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico demonstrate, the issue has important real-world ramifications for this country.

Supply management is becoming a painful obstacle to opening international markets for Canadian goods and services, at a time when trade liberalization is a vital part of the government’s economic strategy. Moreover, Canada is paying a high price at the trade negotiation table to protect a policy that, in effect, taxes low-income Canadians and transfers the money to a handful of relatively well-off farmers. It’s time for a reset.

What is “supply management”? It is a government scheme to raise agricultural prices and farm incomes by a strictly enforced system of licences and quotas that controls who may produce a handful of important commodities, such as milk, cheese, poultry and eggs, and how much they may produce. High tariffs also are imposed on imports of these commodities. By thus controlling both domestic and foreign supply, supply management increases the price of covered commodities. Thus do we repel potential trade partners who would like to sell those commodities to Canadians at competitive prices.

That’s exactly why Canada agonized in Los Cabos over U.S. president Barack Obama’s invitation to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Our system of supply management is not acceptable to many of that trade club’s members; and while we may now be at the negotiating table, we are not in the TPP yet.


The emerging realization that supply management also is blocking Canada’s entry into a new trade bloc that could help enrich all Canadians, provides an additional powerful reason — and, one hopes, the political will — to finally reform this obsolete element of Canadian policy.

Wait, supply management? The TPP could crack down on basic civil liberties on the Internet and create a radical shift in power from the people to major multinational corporations at the expense of domestic businesses and you’re worried about supply management? OK, maybe this was a one-off incident. Let’s try another media outlet. Let’s try Portage Online which seems to be talking about the TPP:

Dairy Farmers of Canada is confident supply management will not be impacted by Canada’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

Several of the other member countries – mainly New Zeland, Australia and the U.S. – have been critical of Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry, with some leaders saying Canada should not be allowed into the talks unless it promises to dismantle the system.


Smith argues all countries have sensitive products they want to protect.

“All countries have sensitivities. Certainly there will be pressure, but it’s up to farmers across the country to continue to bring the message forward to our elected officials that we expect the government will continue to be steadfast in their support for supply management,” he says.

He says he’s perplexed by the criticism of supply management in Canadian media.

Um… right. Well, maybe another source has covered the TPP. Maybe the Toronto Star has something on this. Turns out, they are talking about it too. OK, let’s take a look:

Lawrence Herman, a trade lawyer at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP in Toronto, sees huge benefits for Canadian companies in the Asian market.

“Canadian insurance companies will have greater access to Asian markets,” Herman said Thursday. “If we’re out of TPP, U.S. insurances would have preferences and we wouldn’t.”

As well, he said, “Canadian oilfield service companies will get access to Asian offshore projects and Canadian consulting and engineering firms will get access to infrastructure projects.”


Added the CRS: “Entry of Canada, Japan, and/or Mexico would increase the economic significance of the agreement [in terms of GDP and population]. Still conventional wisdom is that the price Canada will ultimately have to pay is the sacrifice of its 40-year-old supply management system that effectively shelters Canada’s 12,965 dairy farmers and its poultry farmers from foreign competition through high tariff walls.

“It is too early to predict a100 per cent demise but the odds seem to be that way,” said Crowley. “And it will be a slow, messy process.”

Chris Sands, a trade analyst at the Hudson Institute in Washington, predicts the days of special protections for Canada’s dairy and poultry farmers will soon be over. Both the U.S. and New Zealand have long complained about Canada’s supply management system.

“I don’t think it is too early to predict the end of supply management,” Sands said. “It was a policy devised for a different era, when we relied on local supply and needed to sustain local producers through the troughs of agricultural commodity price cycles to retain capacity.”

Wow. Rather than, you know, research this stuff. It seems like the media has chosen to look at the complaint of New Zealand and assumed that this is what the TPP is all about. Did anyone walk about copyright? It seems that the Financial Post did. Let’s see what they had to say:

In the days approaching Los Cabos, the United States, New Zealand and Australia made it clear that Canada wasn’t ready to negotiate a “far-reaching” trade agreement because of weak intellectual property protection and supply-managed dairy and poultry. (IP was by far the most important issue to the Americans.)


There is no doubt that the TPP is worth the price of admission. With the demise of the WTO Doha Round, it is the only agreement that gives Canada meaningful access to fast-growing markets. But the real work was not getting in, it is negotiating a beneficial agreement with diverse trading partners, grappling with the challenges of entering as a latecomer and achieving a balance between solidarity with our NAFTA trading partners and independent interests.

Yeah, the whole part about how Canadian freedom on the Internet may come to a close thanks to the TPP might happen. Sure, corporations are able to ravage Canadian resources without the whole government regulation thing. Oh, but the PR people say it’s all about opening trade relationships with other countries, so therefore it is all worth it! Did anyone really do any research on this? Anyone at all or are we really the only ones that really have a clue what’s going on with the TPP? Oh look, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is talking about it:

Stephen Harper is many things, but he is no fool. He knows that these so-called trade deals are not the magic elixir for Canada’s economy. They actually cost jobs in Canada, and they are based on a completely discredited economic model.

These trade deals are a major part of the international corporate globalization agenda that has done so much to create economic instability, poverty, and huge income inequality around the world.

Free trade deals do not automatically increase trade. The more trade deals Canada has signed, the worse our performance has become. Exports to the majority of Canada’s trade deal partners actually grew more slowly than exports to non-free-trade partners, although our imports from free trade partners increased.


And now it’s the TPP. We don’t know what Canada had to promise to even get in on these talks. It sounds like they had to virtually promise to get rid of supply management for Canada’s farmers, and had to accept everything already agreed to by the other countries without even knowing for sure what had been agreed to. But, we will be told that this is a victory for Canada.

Just how much these deals are designed to limit the ability of governments to actually govern business is underlined by the leaked text which has already been agreed to in the TPP. The TPP will limit the ability of governments to regulate foreign firms operating in their countries. This means foreign firms in Canada would have greater freedom to operate than Canadian companies. Apparently Harper has agreed to be bound by this even though it was negotiated before Canada got to the table.

Formerly secret documents obtained by media outlets also show just how hard Ottawa worked to worm its way into these talks. The Harper government promised that Canada would be “an ambitious partner” willing to discuss “any issue at the negotiating table,” including supply management and intellectual property. The documents make it clear that Harper promised to use his majority to railroad the deal through Parliament.

Talk all you want about how this union person having an agenda of some sort or how evil it is for people to think that workers should have a say on anything, but he touched on more main points than all the other mentioned media articles combined.

So, what are the main points about the TPP? The intellectual property chapter and the investment chapter. The intellectual property provisions makes this the closest iteration to SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) that is around today. The difference is, of course, the fact that it would push through some nasty stuff on multiple countries. The TPP also reportedly creates a two track legal system in signing countries. If a corporation doesn’t like any sort of regulation, it can appeal it to an international judicial system and say that the corporations headquarters is located in a different country that is not bound to those kinds of regulations. Subsequently, that corporation can sue the domestic government for trying to get it to operate under certain regulations that it would otherwise need to abide to while operating on domestic soil. This is a radical departure from how the world works today where if you want to operate in a country, you have to operate by that countries rules.

To be honest, the conspiracy theorist side of me says that this debate about supply management is a sort of red herring. In the hopes of making it sound like the TPP has nothing to do with copyright and internet freedom, the main discussion in the media is about supply management so that the TPP is more palatable to Canadians for the longest period of time possible. Whether that is really going on can’t really be proven. The big hope for me is that Canadians understand that the light at the end of the economic tunnel as represented by the TPP is actually a freight train headed full speed towards them.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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