The latest round of closed meetings on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations was held in Ottawa July 3-12. Like most trade negotiations, the meetings are shrouded in secrecy. Though we don’t know exactly where in the city they met, the Ottawa Citizen reported on July 7 that lead negotiators for the 12 member countries will attend meetings of working groups on intellectual property, investment, state-owned enterprises, and rules of origin.
“The TPP — which currently includes Canada, the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — represents a market of 792 million people and a combined $27.5 trillion in GDP, representing nearly 40 per cent of the global economy.”
– Jason Fekete, “Citizens’ group concerned about secrecy around Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks in Ottawa,” Ottawa Citizen, July 7, 2014.
Forty percent of the global economy stands to be affected by the trade policies of the TPP yet citizens’ voices are not a part of the discussions. Participating governments have refused to release negotiated text and have limited input by citizens. As NAFTA taught us, such trade agreements erode nations’ sovereignty and ability to regulate public policy – look to the well-documented destruction of the domestic market for corn in Mexico, and the legal fight El Salvador is facing in order to protect its environment from pollution by foreign mining companies.
Protection of the environment, food security, and food sovereignty are key issues. When NAFTA enables a Canadian company to sue El Salvador, claiming its right to make a profit is being violated by El Salvador’s environmental protection policies, there are legitimate environmental concerns for the TPP. When Ecuador, Bolivia, Mali, Senegal and Venezuela include food sovereignty in their national constitutions or development plans, then there are legitimate food security and food sovereignty concerns related to the TPP.
It is morally questionable for corporate rights to dominate human rights, and to do so through secret meetings. Catholic social teaching includes our call to family, community and participation to include a belief that “people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.” Also, care for the earth is “a requirement of our faith.” Finally, Catholic social teaching includes the dignity of work and the rights of workers: the economy must serve the people, not the other way around.”
Faith in Action: Learn more about the TPP and global actions to address these concerns at Public Citizen’s website www.ExposeTheTPP.com