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Michael Geist's Blog

Canadian Government Establishes Two-Tier Approach for Trade Talks: Insiders and Everyone Else

As the future of the proposed Canada - European Union Trade Agreement becomes increasingly uncertain - the EU has been unwilling to compromise on the remaining contentious issues leaving the Canadian government with a deal that offers limited benefits and significant costs - the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is likely to emerge as the government's new top trade priority.

The TPP has rapidly become of the world's most significant trade negotiations, with participants that include the United States, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Japan, and Canada. There is a veil of secrecy associated with the TPP, however, as participants are required to sign a confidentiality agreement as a condition of entry into the talks.  Despite those efforts, there have been occasional leaks of draft text that indicate the deal could require major changes to Canadian rules on investment, intellectual property, cultural protection, procurement, and agriculture.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the Canadian government has adopted several measures to guard against leaks by departmental officials. According to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, a November 2012 email to government officials noted that their access to TPP texts was conditioned on "Secret" level clearance, an acknowledgement that all texts are watermarked and can be traced back to the source, and confirmation that no sharing within government is permitted without prior approval.


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