As All Its Big Trade Agreements Grind To An Awkward Halt, Canada Aims To Make TPP Even More Secretive
from the frightened-of-sunlight dept
Techdirt has commented many times on the unduly secretive nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. Despite earlier claims that everything would definitely be wrapped up last year, things are still dragging on, with the next round of negotiations taking place in Canada. Although it seems hardly possible, the government there apparently wants to make the meeting even less transparent than its predecessors, as this post on the Council of Canadians reports:
The only information that has been publicly released is a one-sentence notice posted June 24 on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development website stating that "Negotiators, subject matter experts and other officials will meet in Ottawa, Canada, from July 3-12. No ministerial meeting is being scheduled on the margin of the officials meeting in Ottawa."
We can only assume Canada is worried that the public might learn either that the talks are in trouble, or that really bad deals are being cut in a desperate attempt to sew things up. A fascinating article in the Canadian title Maclean's offers some insight into why the Canadian politicians are so keen to keep everything under wraps:
New Zealand law professor Jane Kelsey has attended many of the rounds as a registered stakeholder, and, when that process ended without any explanation, as an observer. She describes Canada's secrecy as "unprecedented.”
"There can only be one reason for withholding the details: to shut down the remaining minimal access we have to negotiators, a number of whom are happy to meet with us," Kelsey says. "When governments are so afraid of informed public debate, they clearly do not believe they can sell the merits of what they are negotiating."
"Everyone is indulging in a charade where [the TPP] negotiations are going forward. It’s the biggest game in town, but I’m not convinced TPP will see the light of day," says Lawrence Herman, a Toronto-based trade lawyer formerly with Cassels Brock.
Putting those facts together, and you have an embarrassing inability of the Canadian government to close any of its high-profile trade agreements, which it has set such great store by. Clearly, the last thing it wants is any leak that might make achieving that even harder for TPP. Of course, if such a total lock-down on the talks is necessary to have even a slim hope of concluding them, that suggests support for the agreement among the TPP nations is extremely precarious. If it weren't, TPP could stand a little public scrutiny of the kind that the Canadians are doing their utmost to avoid.
The situation is not much more clear with Canada’s agreement-in-principle reached with Europe last October. Officials say CETA is taking longer than anticipated to render into legal text, but observers believe the deal has run into substantive roadblocks.
Also perplexing is why Canada has not ratified the foreign investment protection agreement with China, called FIPA, when the two sides signed the treaty almost two years ago.