Trans-Pacific Partnership

Trans-Pacific Partnership advantages, risks discussed

Panellists answer questions about how the trade agreement may affect Halifax, province

From left: Colin Dodds, Howard Ramos, Jon Penney and Robert Finbow answer questions from moderator Brian Bow, far right, and audience members.
From left: Colin Dodds, Howard Ramos, Jon Penney and Robert Finbow answer questions from moderator Brian Bow, far right, and audience members.   Sara Ericsson

There are benefits and risks for Nova Scotians with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, according to a panel of experts.

A lecture hosted by the Dalhousie University Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, the Canadian International Council and the Halifax Partnership was held Wednesday to help explain how the trade agreement would affect people in the province.

The TPP would create a free-trade zone spanning the entire Pacific Ocean, and would become the world’s largest free-trade agreement. Twelve countries will be included within the agreement.

The trade agreement will only take effect in Canada if it is passed through a majority vote in the House of Commons.

Panellist Robert Finbow, a political science professor at Dalhousie, said awareness is extremely important because of the trade agreement’s effect on Nova Scotia business, which is largely comprised of smaller enterprises.

He said small businesses should be “informed and prepared for big business competition.”

The panel also discussed Halifax’s status as a hub for IT business, and said the city could benefit from TPP legislation.

Panellist Jon Penney, a law professor at Dalhousie, spoke about the trade agreement’s position on open data, which would limit governments from restricting data flow. He said this would benefit IT companies since open data means more exposure and quicker growth for online presence.

He also said he sees risks to Canadian citizens’ privacy. Online surveillance and data containing Nova Scotia consumer information, for example, could be accessed by foreign companies with investments in Canada.

“We want servers to be located in Nova Scotia so … governments around the world (can’t) access that data through secretive measures behind the scenes. The TPP will prevent us from doing that.”

Voicing concerns

Carole MacDonald, who attended the lecture, is concerned the agreement could mean a big change to Canadian trade laws.

She said the investor-state dispute settlement, which creates an international legal process aimed to protect interests of large foreign companies, could cause great harm to smaller Nova Scotia businesses.

“Every country has the right to create and enforce their own laws and not be subjected to international laws,” she said.

Jane Eaton, a former professor at Acadia University, also attended and voiced concerns on this issue.

If foreign companies win disputes against federal or provincial governments, awards would be paid from taxpayers’ dollars under the trade agreement’s terms.

Jane Eaton, who taught Critical Perspectives on Globalization at Acadia University, said the trade agreement would negatively affect Nova Scotia.
Jane Eaton, who taught critical perspectives on globalization at Acadia University, said the trade agreement would negatively impact Nova Scotia.   Sara Ericsson

She said Nova Scotia is a hotbed for mining companies, and that the TPP would encourage more to invest here.

“Instead of just having one or two companies coming in to do quarries or mines that might have very negative aspects and might not pass an environmental assessment, we could now have hundreds,” she said. “This could up the number of cases.”

The trade agreement has also received backlash in Canada, mainly from members of the farming and auto industries.

Panellist Colin Dodds, former president of Saint Mary’s University and currently working with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, said the country as a whole must take advantage of this new trade agreement, calling it a second-best solution.

“It’s better to be in the tent than peeking inside,” he said.

Dodds said the federal government will likely wait to see if the United States ratifies the TPP before they proceed to vote on it.

If the American government doesn’t ratify, the trade agreement will not proceed.