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No Country Should Support A Trade Deal That Disadvantages Its Citizens

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a fundamentally flawed trade deal that puts much at risk in Canada, with little to offer Canada's economy in return.

11/09/2017 15:52 EST | Updated 11/09/2017 15:53 EST

I can honestly say that the price of a decent family home in Auckland never concerned me much — not until the last week or so, at least.

I became interested, however, when the new government in New Zealand announced that it would move to prevent foreign investors from buying existing homes in the country as a way to cut speculation and make it easier for new home buyers to buy their first home.

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Auckland's city skyline.

Parts of Canada, including Vancouver and Toronto, are looking at similar ideas, and for much the same reason.

New Zealand, however, is pushing to get the new law into place before the end of the year, for reasons that have nothing to do with the cost of housing. Instead, New Zealand is trying to get its house in order before more progress is made on resuscitating the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

On the housing front, that means rushing through the new law before the end of the year, since such a law would not be allowed under the TPP. This despite the fact that New Zealand is supporting plans to revive the TPP, after the deal was upended when the U.S. abandoned it earlier this year.

To me, it says all you need to know about the TPP — a trade deal among Pacific Rim countries, including Canada — that one of its main proponents is rushing to bring in new laws before the deal can go into effect, because those laws would suddenly become illegal under the deal.

I have to ask, why would New Zealand still support the TPP, while at the same time admitting that the deal would prevent it from making the kind of social policy that its own people want?

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Canada's Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland, left, with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, right, after signing the Trans Pacific Partnership at Sky City on Feb. 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand.

For that matter, why would anybody? Why would Canada?

For months now, the 11 countries still left in trade deal after the United States pulled out have been musing about trying to resurrect the deal without the U.S. With the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Vietnam this week, that speculation will no doubt ramp up.

It's a bad idea.

The TPP is a fundamentally flawed trade deal that puts much at risk in Canada, including higher drug prices, and it threatens the future of Canada's supply management system, with little to offer Canada's economy in return.

The TPP's Investor-State Disputes Settlement system would give extreme powers to investors to sue governments if a law, however much it is supported by the people of that country, threatens a company's profits.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
The AGS Automotive Systems manufacturing facility in Oshawa, Ont. on March 3, 2011.

As well, the TPP would hurt Canada's auto sector, thanks to a deal struck between the U.S. and Japan to let cars and parts move tariff-free through TPP member countries, even if more than half (55 per cent) was built outside the TPP. Such a provision puts jobs in Canada at risk, and yet Canada wasn't invited to be part of the discussion.

Frankly, it makes absolutely no sense to stay in a deal that would hurt Canada so badly — especially when the U.S. is no longer part of the deal.

Canada got into this bad deal thanks to the Harper government thinking it had to be part of the TPP because the U.S. was involved. As a result, Canada joined the talks near completion, and had to agree to all these bad provisions just to get a seat at the table.

Canada has said that it wants to pursue a progressive trade agenda. That's a noble goal. Although what that looks like in practice remains to be seen. Its proposals for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, while not perfect, are a step in the right direction.

NAFTA is just one deal, however. A truly progressive trade agenda must be much broader; and that begins with leaving the TPP on the scrap heap of bad ideas, never to be revived.

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