TPP deal would force CBC, Canada Post to work for profit only – leak
A letter leaked by WikiLeaks reveals that CBC, Canada Post and other Crown corporations could be forced to work solely for profit under the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPP) currently being negotiated in Maui, Hawaii.
TPP could have the power to force state-owned enterprises such as news organizations and postal services to abandon their public service mandate and embrace a profit-only approach, says the leaked confidential letter titled ‘State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Issues for Ministerial Guidance’.
The document was put together for a TPP Ministerial Meeting held in Singapore in December 2013. It outlines “a wide-ranging privatization and globalization strategy,” according to WikiLeaks.
“Even an SOE that exists to fulfill a public function neglected by the market or which is a natural monopoly would nevertheless be forced to act ‘on the basis of commercial considerations,’” WikiLeaks said in a statement that introduces the document. “Foreign companies would be given standing to sue SOEs in domestic courts for perceived departures from the strictures of the TPP, and countries could even be sued by other TPP countries, or by private companies from those countries.”
It is unclear whether or not these principles will be included in the final agreement. But the leaked document shows that a “majority of TPP countries” did not object to the SOEs acting “on the basis of commercial considerations.”
Moreover, governments would no longer be able to offer funding to Crown corporations if that money has “adverse effects” on other TPP countries, a professor of law at the University of Auckland, Jane Kelsey, said in an analysis of the document prepared for Wikileaks.
“It looks like SOEs are not allowed to get government support or noncommercial assistance … That kind of support is often essential for SOEs that provide public functions that are not profitable or are even loss-making.”
Kelsey confirms that TPP also incorporates the infamous investor-state dispute mechanism, which would allow foreign firms to sue the Canadian government for subsidizing a Crown corporation if it is felt that the money is giving a competitive advantage.
This is despite the fact that Crown corporations usually have a non-commercial purpose that needs to be fulfilled, according to Kelsey, such as “guaranteed access to important services” or social and cultural functions.
In light of these possible developments, some Canadian activists spoke out against the deal, warning of potentially grave repercussions.
“The TPP will hinder our state-owned enterprises from acting in the public interest,” said a trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians, Sujata Dey. “The very mission of the CBC – telling the bilingual and multicultural story of Canada – will be reduced to simple profit-making. Likewise, Canada Post will no longer function as a nation builder, but as a private company. The essence and mandate of our Crown corporations are being traded away in favor of private corporate profit.”
The TPP is being negotiated between 12 countries, with the US at the helm. The other countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and Peru.
Canada’s ruling Conservative party, headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reportedly wants to have a deal in their possession before the weekend – when the party is expected to announce its election campaign.
WikiLeaks first revealed a draft of a highly secretive multinational TPP agreement back in 2013. It has been described as a NAFTA-like deal that is expected to encompass nations representing more than 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product when it is finally approved.
The treaty has been heavily criticized, especially due to its lack of transparency concerning meetings between potential TPP partners, including the US and several nations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Most of the draft documents have been published solely by WikiLeaks in an effort to disclose as much of the agreement as possible before it is adopted.