While the media are focused on widening markets and tariff reductions, the bulk of the TransPacific Partnership agenda remains out of view. That's convenient for the beneficiaries, and very inconvenient to the 99.8%, and a major block to hopes of transitioning to a renewable future. So let's takle a look!

First, let's look at the tariffs. A tariff is a fee that a government uses to regulate imports. When tariffs are removed, a tool for regulating and balancing of that country’s markets is removed, and a source of government income dries up. Who benefits? Not the country. It's the traders - usually multi-national corporations - themselves that no longer need to pay these fees. It's tax evasion by another name.

For the privilege of these corporations avoiding these fees, the countries that sign on to these 'free trade' agreements have to agree to all kinds of rules that protect the corporation's profit. Here lies the biggest cost: Investor-state dispute settlements - ISDS lawsuits. That would sound like pure conspiracy theory to think that such regulations could be imposed, but since Canada has for some years signed on the NAFTA - the North American Free Trade Agreement - we already know what this is. We have been extensively sued, costing billions. 

Let me offer some examples of this insanity. An ongoing lawsuit is a $700 million oil tycoon's lawsuit against the province of Ontario for favouring windmills. Quebec is facing a $250 million lawsuit resulting from a moratorium on fracking. Get the picture? 

Should Canada ratify the TPP, (please, may good sense prevail that this doesn't happen!), there would now be a whole load more countries at our door with their lawsuits.

A corporation doesn't even have to intend to frack to sue - the suit is 'perceived loss of future profit.' Apparently there are now new business consultants that can be hired to help corporations find lawsuits – a good cash cow for some, loss of funding for education and health care for the rest, and yet another way of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich.

The threat of these ISDS lawsuits is blocking innovation. Rather than working globally to power down and move towards renewable energy and sustainable lifestyles, as Naomi Klein puts it, 'countries are tearing down each other's windmills' through these lawsuits.

So Australia, beware. Learn from Canada. These 'trade agreements' are very little about trade, and a lot about a privileged few accruing even greater wealth, and gaining power OVER governments. For example, a government could be sued for increasing the minimum wage because it affects multi-national corporate profit, sued for favouring local businesses or content, sued for using less rather than more.

A government that cannot protect its land and people is not really a government. Being governed by un-elected businessmen whose only stated interest is increasing profit is a scary thought. TPP is just that direction.

For more information, go to www.stop-TPP.ca