Image for Trudeau: send a message to Canadians and ditch the TPP
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Trudeau: send a message to Canadians and ditch the TPP

The TPP is on its last legs – but why not finish it off? Trudeau should take a stand and reject the TPP.

Around the world, digital rights advocates and citizens are cautiously celebrating the impending death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). From the Obama administration signalling that it will not pursue a ratification vote in the lame duck session of Congress to Donald Trump’s promise to “quit the TPP” on his first day in office, it’s clear that pressure frommillions of individuals and activists have succeeded in making the TPP political quicksand.

But here in Canada, the TPP is still sitting – lukewarm – on the table. The government has been careful since signing the agreement in February not to make any particularly strong statements about the agreement one way or another, keeping one eye on the growing public opposition and the other on the political headwinds.

But Canadians deserve a government that takes decisive action on issues central to our national interest – and that certainly includes our participation (or not) in a massive trade deal that we’ve spent five years and untold millions humming and hawing over. Instead of waiting for the agreement to fall apart elsewhere, the Canadian government should make it clear that this agreement – and the flawed process that begot it – does not serve Canada, and promptly reject the TPP.

Just take it from one of the many groups joining the chorus of opposition to the TPP through consultations run by the Standing Committee on International Trade (CIIT). A group representing 400 arts organizations and over 10,000 artists across Canada recently submitted a brief to the CIIT arguing that the TPP would not be in the interests of artists. This is an important step, countering the narrative that the Intellectual Property expansions in the agreement will serve to benefit the arts and cultural sector.

Unfortunately, as we know all too well, the interests of artists themselves are often conflated with the interests of giant media corporations that purchase and distribute their works. Jem Noble is the Director of Programs at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society– a Vancouver-based artist-run production and exhibition centre, and worked closely on drafting the brief mentioned above.

Noble believes that the TPP poses a threat to art, culture, and democratic processes:

A shared perspective exists between the Artist-Run, Media Arts and Arts Service sectors, which encompass diverse points of view on political, economic and cultural issues. At a foundational level, this perspective concerns the way in which the terms and conditions of the TPP have emerged – through secret intergovernmental negotiations informed by vast corporate lobby groups, but not by national sectoral nor public advocates – which is profoundly anti-democratic. On a pragmatic, everyday level, the insubstantial degree of attention and transparency accorded to public consultation on ratification, by government and mass media alike, and the suppression of the TPP's profoundly important cultural implications, through the reduction of discourse to purely economic terms in both of these spheres, is not only mind boggling, but truly frightening. The coalition of arts alliances behind this statement, and the many thousands of artists and cultural workers we represent, would rather we, as Canadians, don't sleepwalk our way into a cultural nightmare, glazed by the language of economy.

If you want to dig in, you can read the full statement submitted by Artist-Run, Media Arts and Arts Service sectors below.


With clear dangers posed to Canadian arts, culture, and digital policy – among a myriad of other issues – the choice for Canada’s political decision-makers is obvious: reject the TPP.

At the very least, it would help to rebuild trust with members of the public who have been shaking their heads and watching the Trudeau government’s wait-and-see approach, and could be a positive indication that trade negotiations held in secret, excluding the public and key stakeholders, will not find a path to law in Canada. So the challenge has been issued: let’s see bold, Canadian action on the TPP. After all, as the old saying goes, all you get from sitting on the fence is a sore…ahem.

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