Yesterday’s Trouble with the TPP post focused on the possibility that the agreement could restrict the ability for the Quebec government to regulate online gambling, as it is currently seeking to do in Bill 74. While that might be a good outcome – the Quebec bill is ill-advised and sets a dangerous precedent – it raises the question of whether a trade agreement is the right way to dictate provincial laws.
In fact, the TPP leaves behind a complex array of regulations for services industries that is almost certain to result in unintended consequences. Many trade agreements feature obligations to specific service sectors based on commitments from negotiating parties. These are relatively clear and make it easy for business to understand the new rules and for governments to identify their regulatory requirements. The TPP adopts a much different approach that is likely to lead to confusion and regulatory complexity. It features a series of generally applicable restrictions or requirements for services (the big four are national treatment, most favoured nation, market access, and no local presence requirements) and then seeks to exclude specific sectors in the hope of identifying problems with the general rules. As the Quebec gambling example illustrates, however, there are invariably new sectors or new issues that fall through the cracks.
Another possible complication could come from demands to regulate ride sharing services such as Uber.