When the Canadian doctor Sir Frederick Banting discovered insulin in 1920, which continues to help millions afflicted with diabetes to thrive, he turned down offers from big corporations that would have made him a billionaire. Calling insulin a gift to humankind, he gave the patent away to researchers to make sure that it would affordable to everyone.
Instead of being inspired by the likes of Dr. Banting, Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) agreement tears a leaf out of Martin Shkreli’s playbook making generic medicines used to treat a wide variety of diseases, including tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, unaffordable to millions of people around the world, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and numerous intellectual property rights experts.
Not only is the TPP bad for our health and well-being, it is bad our jobs, it is bad for our freedoms and it is bad for our environment. What do we gain in return? TPP will boost our economy at most by 0.28%, according to one study by the Tufts University.
As I shall explain in this submission, the only “free” aspect of this so-called free trade agreement is the freedom it gives corporations to jack up the price of essential medicines, poison our food supply, pollute our rivers and oceans, ship our jobs overseas to places where workers toil away in sweatshop conditions making less than two dollars a day while importing cheap indentured labour, and severely restricting our intellectual freedoms.
TPP is bad for our health
Dr. Heather Culbert, President of MSF Canada, warns us that:
Under the TPP, not only will pharmaceutical patents be expanded and extended, but international trade disputes will be addressed by third-party tribunals that lack either transparency or an appeals mechanism. Many governments will feel they have no choice but to comply, even though most of their citizens will have no hope of accessing potentially life-saving medications.
Canadians will not be immune to the increase in drug prices caused by the TPP, Dr. Culbert states:
Canadians will also face extended patent provisions and increased costs for medications. Pharmaceutical companies will not hesitate to protect their commercial interests, as has already been demonstrated by a $500 million lawsuit by Eli-Lilly against the Canadian government (and taxpayers) for the rejection of two drug patents and for allowing competitors to enter the market. The TPP will put even more of this kind of leverage in the hands of pharmaceutical companies against the rights of governments.
Analysis by the not-for-profit group Fight for the Future pin points to exactly which sections of the agreement will lead to this state of affairs:
Article 18.26: Term of Protection for Trademarks
Increases the minimum protection for trademarks to 10 years, forcing countries to follow the U.S. model on this rather than make their own trademark policy based on the public interest. This will limit technological innovation and could curtail affordable access to medicines or other basic necessities.
Article 18.37: Patentable Subject Matter
Allows for the patenting of “new methods of using a known product,” which essentially allows for unlimited patents from Pharmaceutical companies and will block affordable access to medicines and medical procedures and prevent innovation of better and more affordable healthcare procedures.
Higher drug prices will not be the only negative impact that the TPP will have on our health and well being. Award-winning Canadian microbiologist Dr. Shiv Chopra warns us that the TPP will see hormone-laced milk, which he fought so hard to keep out of our store shelves, being imported into Canada.
Dr. Chopra, who became the first recipients of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Integrity Award, in recognition of their role as “individuals who acted courageously in the public interest without thought of personal gain, and in doing so risked reprisals in the form of threats to their careers, livelihood, or personal freedom,” states:
We worked upon it so much and got [bovine growth hormone] rejected in Canada… Now, under the trade agreement, it’s going to let the floodgates open.
TPP is bad for our jobs
The Trans-Pacific Partnership will cost Canada 58,000 jobs and increase income inequality, the Tufts study warns. If that was not enough, the TPP will also allow corporations to bring unlimited number of temporary foreign workers, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour, who state:
The section of the deal on Canada Temporary Entry for Business Persons confirms fears that the deal allows foreign companies to bring in an unlimited number of temporary foreign workers in certain broad occupational categories without work permits, bypassing all certification requirements and rules to protect Canadian jobs. This will continue to distort the local labour market and to displace Canadians and to drive down wages.
The AFL also expresses concern at the provisions of the TPP that will lead to the harmonization of Canadian labour laws with those of countries with inferior labour standards. In the words of AFL’s president Gil McGowan:
The ‘harmonization’ that this deal promises won’t improve labour laws anywhere. Whenever labour laws are ‘harmonized,’ it’s always part of a race to the bottom. Canadian labour laws should not be based on those of TPP signatories like Vietnam.
TPP is bad for our environment
The backers of the TPP claim that the agreement’s environment chapter proves that the deal was negotiated with environmental stewardship as a core value. Any safeguards offered in the environment chapter, however, are overridden by the Investor-state dispute settlement provisions of the TPP. The 2015 Bilcon v. Canada decision, where a US corporation successfully used the ISDS to overturn a Canadian government decision not to allow mining on environmental protection grounds, is still fresh in the minds of many Canadians. The ISDS provisions of the TPP are equally disturbing, and the Sierra Club explains how they constitute a bill of rights for polluters:
For example, corporations including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Occidental have used rules in the investment chapters of trade pacts and bilateral investment treaties to bring more than 600 investor-state cases against nearly 100 governments. More and more, these cases are directly challenging policies designed to protect our air, water, and climate including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec,a nuclear energy phase-out and new coal-fired power plant standards in Germany, and requirement for a pollution clean-up in Peru. And corporations are winning. In March 2015, a NAFTA tribunal found that Canada violated NAFTA’s investment rules because of an environmental impact assessment that led Canada to reject a U.S. company’s controversial mining project from moving forward in an important cultural and ecological area in Nova Scotia.
TPP is bad for our intellectual freedoms
The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as:
The right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored.
Intellectual freedom is what powers social progress, scientific discovery, technological advancement, and as a result of all of the above, improvements in our quality of life. It is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society.
The TPP poses a great threat to intellectual freedom. In the words of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of expression, right to privacy and due process, as well as hindering peoples’ abilities to innovate. Other chapters of the agreement encourage your personal data to be sent borders with limited protection for your privacy, and allow foreign corporations to sue countries for laws or regulations that promote the public interest.
A very simple example of the insidious nature of this agreement is that under the TPP, even unlocking of a cell phone becomes a criminal offence, as highlighted Fight for the Future:
Article 18.68: Technological Protection Measures
This section attempts to make it a crime to circumvent any “Digital Rights Management” (DRM) locks on a device, even if you own it. It could criminalize people who unlock their phones in order to use accessibility software, for example, or make it illegal to circumvent DRM on a computer in order to use Linux.
Conclusion & Recommendations
The TPP is not a trade agreement. It is yet another blatant attempt by large multinational corporation to exert complete corporate control by undermining the will of the citizens. It will only benefit Martin Shkreli’s of the world while condemning millions to misery.
I urge you to listen to the voices of concerned Canadians and reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership which puts corporate greed before citizens’ needs.