Many of the promises -- increased productivity, more jobs, more money in our pockets -- have simply not come true. This is ironic because, as free trade agreements become toxic all over the world, Canada, a country bound by a long-standing trade deal, has not had a comprehensive debate on the proposed CETA (trans-Atlantic) or TPP (trans-Pacific) agreements.
Our current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system has regularly awarded 100 per cent power to one of Canada's two established "centrist" political parties -- the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party(formerly, Progressive Conservative Party) -- even when their share of the popular vote has been well below 50 per cent of total votes cast, nationwide.
Trade between Japan and Canada has stagnated for over a decade. Exports from Canada to Japan grew only four per cent from 2006 to 2015, while Canada's imports from Japan have declined. There is good news -- foreign investment from both sides show an upwards trend -- but business will need help to capitalize on this opportunity.
It is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system that would give corporations the right to sue governments for passing laws that hurt their ability to earn a profit -- even if those laws are in the public interest. Think about that. A government gets elected to pass the laws that its citizens want -- and then gets sued under an international trade agreement for doing exactly what it was elected to do. Think that won't happen? It already has.
Where once trade deals dealt with bringing down tariffs to allow for the freer flow of goods between countries, today's trade deals put much more emphasis on "non-tariff barriers" such as laws and regulations within the countries involved in a trade deal -- and grant extraordinary powers to corporations to sue governments that pass laws that hurt their profits.
Since NAFTA was implemented, we have realized that free trade was not just about the elimination of commercial boundaries and protectionist trade policies, but also about allowing delocalization to take place. And just as Sanders is considering to reintroduce the Glass Steagal act, the NDP should also propose to reintroduce firewalls between financial institutions.
On the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), International Trade minister Chrystia Freeland has claimed to be in "listening mode." And she says no decision has been made yet. It is widely reported that she is touring the country to hear Canadians on the TPP. But it is not clear whom she is actually consulting.
In many countries, there is a debate over how much power we give to corporations. And it is boosting populist right-wing parties and left-wing parties that are against trade. In Europe, many of the right-wing parties are opposing free trade agreements. At the same time, from the left of the spectrum, voices such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are also targeting free trade.
Should Canada not ratify the agreement now and decide to try and join later, it's doubtful that any of the probably hundreds of exemptions and carve-outs that it currently has would be offered again. In other words, if you don't like this version of the TPP you'll be less happy with what we would get later.