Trans Pacific Partnership meeting switched from Vancouver to Ottawa, ducking critics

What could make the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership process even less legit?

Moving it at the last minute, under cover of darkness, from Vancouver to Ottawa, in order to avoid critics of the treaty and how it is being negotiated. The TPP is a secretive treaty that allows corporations to sue governments that enact environmental, health and governmental regulations that interfere with their profits. It also calls for vastly expanded Internet spying and censorship in the name of protecting copyright.

Only trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists are allowed to see the drafts of the agreement (though plenty of these drafts have leaked) -- often times, members of Congress and Parliament are denied access to them, even though the agreement will set out legal obligations that these elected officials will be expected to meet.

And while negotiators and interested civil society groups now know (unless it changes again) that the talks will be indeed be held in Ottawa, no other details have been revealed. Nobody -- not even negotiators coming to Canada next week for the talks -- have been told the location. Specific information about when negotiations on specific chapters will take place are being kept similarly under wraps.

There has been no response from requests from interested civil society groups for information about opportunities for engagement with negotiators. In previous rounds of the TPP negotiations some efforts were made to facilitate discussions with negotiators, albeit with the challenge of not being able to know the specifics of what was being negotiated. As the negotiations have moved forward, however, public interest groups have been increasingly sidelined from the process and shut out of negotiations.

And for its first crack at hosting a chief negotiators-level TPP meeting, it would seem, Canada has taken it to the extreme by attempting to eliminate any possibility of engagement by civil society at all, and is not even letting negotiators from other countries know the location out of concern that word will get out.

The TPP is coming to Canada (not that it's easy to tell) [Scott Harris/Council of Canadians]

(Thanks, Sergei!)

(Icon: Rally To Oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Deal, AFGE, CC-BY)

Notable Replies

  1. Question - will they even be allowing people other than "trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists" and the like to attend?

    Moving the location would only make sense as an evasion tactic if outside parties are even a factor in the first place. If the only people in attendance are going to be insiders anyway, then it hardly matters where they hold it.

  2. LDoBe says:

    I'd guess they're trying to avoid protesters setting up outside the meeting. They are already getting some negative attention, and I'd expect they would want to prevent attracting more bad press on short timescales.

  3. My understanding is that it's considered insensitive to subject important people to the sight of the unwashed masses who hate them, or even the perimeter of riot pigs and razor wire that it takes to keep their meeting undisturbed.

    Keeping the meeting undisturbed is considered a minimum condition, which is why host cities do roll out the big guns for the occasion; but nobody likes to be reminded of how much effort is required to keep their bubble of comfortable and shared assumptions isolated.

    Consider the example of the ongoing epic butthurt of the American plutocracy: despite having basically all their economic demands met or exceeded, you've got people crying about how not being respected and praised in all corners is just a step or two away from being herded into the gas chambers.

  4. We can only hope that the security gets so overblown that people who are supposed to be in meetings don't know where they're being held, and agreements don't get made or they're made multiple times with mutually contradictory clauses.

    Meanwhile, I'm sure that Ottawa can rustle up some local protestors. How many venues in Ottawa could host such a secure, high-level meeting?

  5. You're right that no one can attend but it's way more annoying than that. At negotiating rounds TPP opponents, who aren't allowed at the actual negotiations, often hold events in the city (talks, workshops, etc) and invite the delegates to them. A surprisingly large amount of them actually attend (often if there's a lunch involved as we all know how bad conference food is).

    Moving it at a late stage like this disrupts all the plans of the opponents as they scramble to find new venues and new accommodation. Moreover, moving it further away from the Pacific (the second P in TPP) means opponents from countries like (for example) New Zealand, can see their airfare costs go way way up.

    It's also not the first time this has happened. Last year talks were held in Japan but no details emerged of where or when until it was too late to plan anything. In Brunei as well, dates, times and locations were all changed at the last minute meaning opponents were often left (almost) literally scrambling from place to place.

    Full disclosure: I'm part of the Fair Deal network (Consumer NZ) and spoke at the Brunei round of negotiations last year.

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