"Buy local" under threat — by the USA

Posted 04.15.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Or, we might say that our ability to buy-local to support our home-town economy may also be under threat by Japan, Chile, or any of the dozen coastal nations signing on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

This trade agreement, completely negotiated in secret, was entered by the Harper government, and, apparently, has been signed by our new-looking federal government. The Prime Minister has said in very vague terms that Canadians will be consulted on the treaty before it is actually made part of Canadian law by Parliament.

Given how the negotiations have been handled so far, that consultation will likely occur while we are asleep. And the Pacific trade pact will be passed into law before we even wake up.

The TPP contains infamous clauses of "extra-territoriality.".These are the single strongest argument for seeing this trade pact not as a "free trade agreement", but as a series of investor rights agreements. Nothing comes "free" (in this treaty or any other).

These clauses give treaty-signers the rights and the means to sue any national government which impedes access to home markets. This is where "buy local" comes in -- or, really, where it goes out the door.

If, for example, Gatineau council were to legislate that it will buy a certain percentage or a certain type of service or product only from local providers -- as a means of stimulating local businesses and jobs –- - the TPP allows any corporation to sue Gatineau for lost revenues.

Quebec will no longer be free to require that municipal libraries buy their books (or some) through local bookstores. Canada can no longer have East coast shipyards build new naval craft, unless all other nations are given the opportunity to bid on those contracts. Canada could be ordered to "compensate" shipbuilders in Japan for "lost sales", should Canada give its naval orders to the Maritimes.

It' s easy to see what this will do to farm marketing boards and to farm income support plans during droughts or other hard times. Bombardier will not have guaranteed orders from Canadian subway systems. Softwood lumber, tar-sands oil, electronics -- all affected.

The US Commerce Secretary has correctly called the trade deal not a treaty but "one more step" in a reorganization of world trade laws. These trade deals -- TPP, NAFTA, the pan-European deal under talks right now -- they are not separate agreements but are a form of external constitution for Canada (and other countries). We will keep our constitution, as we know it, something the queen signed in the rain, but we will have an even stronger blueprint, an external constitution, applying to us. Our trade will be governed and enforced by forces outside our borders.

If the Federal Liberals sign the TPP there' s little Canadians can do—except one thing: commit ourselves to buying local. This can undermine even an international treaty, if we all stick together and stay courageous.

We can do that here, can' t we?


Copyright © 2016 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.16