“I felt I needed to be informed by the academic community’s thinking on trade issues,” Chrystia Freeland said (all photos by Arnold Lan)

Not too late to mitigate TPP effects, Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland told

University of Toronto gathering included experts from Munk School of Global Affairs, Faculty of Law, Rotman School of Management, University of Ottawa and Hebrew University of Jerusalem

It’s too late to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal but not too late to mitigate its most negative effects.

That was the conclusion of a day-long workshop at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs on Jan. 14. The event was organized by U of T law professor Ariel Katz and Munk School professor Dan Breznitz at the request of international trade minister Chrystia Freeland, who promised to take into consideration everything that was said at the workshop.

In her opening remarks, Freeland recalled how she met with Katz and Breznitz at Munk within days of her being sworn in as trade minister.

“I felt I needed to be informed by the academic community’s thinking on trade issues. At the end of the meeting, I said to these guys, ‘Okay, that was a good start, but within four weeks I’d like you guys to organize something international.’ And they’ve done it.”

Freeland and her parliamentary assistant, David Lametti, have been travelling across the country since November, consulting business, labour, academia and others about the TPP and its effects on Canada. Speakers at the U of T workshop included U of T faculty members, as well as University of Ottawa Internet and e-commerce law expert Michael Geist, and Tomer Broude, the vice-dean of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among the attendees were former BlackBerry co-CEO (and U of T alumnus) Jim Balsillie and many U of T faculty members and students.

U of T speakers included Munk School professors Janice Stein and David Wolfe, Rotman professor Dan Trefler and Law professors Lisa Austin and David Schneiderman

(Photo below: Ariel Katz, Jim Balsillie, Chrystia Freeland and Dan Breznitz)

photo of Katz, Balsillie, Freeland and Breznitz

Besides Canada, the countries that participated in the TPP talks were Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States of America and Vietnam. A signing ceremony has been set for February 4, and the signatory countries will need to ratify the agreement before it comes into effect.

The TPP covers a wide range of issues, including tariffs, agriculture, intellectual property, and services and investments. Its stated goals are to “promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.” 

The agreement came in for considerable criticism at the workshop. Geist cited a number of concerns, including the criminalization of trade secret law and copyright term extension. Breznitz said the TPP will make Canadian markets less free and less competitive – and will particularly hurt innovation-based entrepreneurship. 

Trefler expressed scepticism about whether the TPP will be ratified by the U.S. Congress while President Barack Obama is in office. That delay, he said, gives Canada the opportunity to negotiate side agreements that could mitigate some of the predicted negative effects of the main agreement. “We need to find some way to minimize the damage,” he said. 

Stein advised Freeland to aggressively pursue deeper bilateral relations with China, which was not part of the TPP negotiations. She noted that the U.S. is already negotiating with China outside the TPP, “and we should do the same.”  

Edward Iacobucci, dean of the Faculty of Law, and Munk School Director Stephen Toope thanked Katz and Breznitz for organizing the workshop, the first in a new series of events co-organized by Munk and Law. 

“Events like this are extremely important to the university,” Iacobucci said, “partly because they bring together the various centres of excellence that we have across the campus and across campuses, to talk about these issues which are, after all, multi-faceted issues.”


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