Exempt education from trade pact, CTF urges

February 9, 2016 ATA News Staff

Organizations representing Canadian educators called on the government to explicitly exclude education from the terms of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including Canada, the United States and Japan.

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which together represent 268,000 K–12 and post-secondary educators, added their voices to those of other Education International (EI) affiliate organizations in the 12 countries involved — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

All the affiliate organizations wrote their governments demanding that education be carved out of the deal.

"We believe the TPP is a flawed agreement. Education must be seen as more than a tradable commodity. It is part of the cultural and social fabric of our society," states the letter signed by CTF president Heather Smith and CAUT executive director David Robinson.

Both organizations share EI’s concerns about how the education sector could be impacted by the wide-reaching trade pact that covers 40 per cent of the global economy. They feel that, because the pact doesn’t explicitly exclude education, it exposes the sector to greater risks of privatization and commercialization and threatens free, public, high-quality education.

The push to keep education off the table came just days prior to a Feb. 4 meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, during which representatives of all 12 nations gathered to sign the deal. Canada’s International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland attended the event and put Canada’s signature on the deal.

In an open letter posted to her department’s website Jan. 25, Freeland wrote that signing the agreement simply keeps Canada at the table and will allow "the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made."

"Just as it is too soon to endorse the TPP, it is also too soon to close the door," she wrote. "Only a majority vote in our Parliament can allow the agreement to take force."

Each country has two years to ratify the agreement, which will take effect once it’s ratified by six of the signing nations that represent 85 per cent of the GDP of the original signatories. In effect, this requires ratification from Japan, the United States and at least four other countries, the CBC reported.❚

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