Trade negotiations should be transparent

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder condemns the Conservative government for its secretive approach to trade talks.

NDP Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan condemns the Conservative government's secretive approach to trade talks. Crowder says the federal Conservatives are preventing MPs from accessing draft copies of the Trans Pacific Partnership deal

Trade deals can affect every aspect of one’s life in Canada, from the price of milk at the store to the quality and safety of our vehicles.

That’s why Canadians want to know what goes into trade deals — especially what Canada has put on the table for negotiation. Without that knowledge before a deal is signed, it is hard to know what the implications of changes will be for the average family.

One example is the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.  Since the TPP includes several areas of policy that have never been subject to trade agreements before, even more areas of Canada’s economy and society will be affected.

While the Conservative government keeps all discussions absolutely secret, New Democrats have learned that all members of the U.S. Congress are being given access to the draft text of the TPP.

Access to Information requests have also revealed that there is a small group of insider industry associations that have special access to Canada’s negotiating position, but the Conservatives have prevented others from having access to the text, including Members of Parliament.

That makes it almost impossible for MPs to fulfill their duty to defend the public’s interests. While healthy, balanced international trade is an important aim, trade negotiations that are more inclusive and transparent should be the norm.

Instead, we have secret negotiations where farmers across Canada learned the Conservatives had put Canada’s supply management on the table in trade talks through the media.

While the government has not made an official announcement, it was a badly-kept secret that the other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including New Zealand, oppose our supply management system. They want access to our market for their own dairy industry, and it looks like the Conservatives may give that access to select countries, including the U.S.

New Democrats believe Canada’s supply-managed sectors provide clear benefits to Canadians, including lower costs.

Supply management in Canada’s dairy, poultry and egg industries is a tested system for efficient delivery of safe, local food to Canadians.

And there are no subsidies paid to Canadian producers under supply management, unlike the other countries involved in the TPP.

Here on the Island, local farmers help with food security, including the knowledge that our milk is safe and free from products like rbST, a growth hormone that is legal in other countries (including the U.S.) and present in the milk that is sold.

Please go to my website, www.jeancrowder.ca, for updates on both these issues.

 

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