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Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz gave the keynote address at a U of O event discussing the Trans Pacific Partnership. Photo: Eric Davidson.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz visits to talk about pending trade agreement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between 12 pacific rim countries that was signed by Canada on Feb. 4, is the focus of a growing discussion on how the TPP will affect factors from job creation to patents on generic medicines. While the agreement has been signed, it has yet to be ratified by Canada, and thus hasn’t yet come into effect.

The discussion continued at an on-campus event focused on the TPP, which was hosted by the University of Ottawa’s School of International Development and Global Studies.

The event took place on April 1, but the guest list was no joke.

The event featured seven experts, including Dr. Ron Labonté, professor in the U of O’s Faculty of Medicine and the Canada research chair in Globalization and Health Equity, who helped organize the event. Topping off the list was Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

In his talk, Stiglitz came down against the agreement. “It benefits American corporations at the expense of American citizens and Canadian citizens,” he said. But also he said he was “enthusiastic about the fact that there is a beginning of discussion of TPP.”

“We thought the TPP, which has a huge impact on Canada, is not getting a proper debate, especially in a democracy where it was negotiated in secret,” said Martin O’Hanlon, president of Communications Workers of America Canada, a media union, which was one of the event’s sponsors. “This is to inform the public, and then to put pressure on the government to do something and act.”

When asked why they wanted the event to be held at the U of O, O’Hanlon said there was a wide variety of interested parties, from Labonté, who looked at the TPP’s health impacts, to Michael Geist, a law professor at the U of O and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, who has written prolifically on what the TPP would mean for patent law.

“You have two departments that are quite interested in the implications of the TPP,” said O’Hanlon. Geist also noted that the Faculty of Law had held an event about the TPP in the fall, which received a lot of interest and exceeded its seating capacity.

Geist also points out that while the TPP has already been signed by Canada, its fate hasn’t been determined. “Signing and ratifying are two very different things,” he said, and noted that simply signing an agreement carries no legal weight. “The need to discuss the agreement is as important as ever,” he said.

“With the government wanting to consult the public, a more informed public is critical, and events like the one last week go a long way to achieving that,” said Geist.

The government of Canada has more information on the TPP on its site, and is soliciting comments on the agreement to TPP-PTP.consultations@international.gc.ca.