Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Worst Business Move in History" Balsillie Weighs in on TPP

Balsillie blasts TPP and parties in Parliament

by Peter Ewart - 250 News

November 12, 2015

Prince George, B.C. – Jim Balsillie, former co-director of the high tech firm Research In Motion (RIM), has issued some stinging words regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal which the Harper government signed on to before being voted out of office.

According to Balsillie, signing the TPP will be “the worst public policy decision in the country’s history” and result in Canada losing hundreds of billions of dollars. The TPP enshrines bad and discriminatory rules for Canada regarding intellectual property, and will stifle innovation in the country, making Canada a “permanent underclass in the selling of ideas” (1).

In particular, if the new Liberal government decides to go ahead with the TPP, Canadian innovators will be forced to play by U.S. defined rules, giving U.S. companies an edge and costing Canadian companies “more money because they would have to pay for someone else’s ideas instead of their own.”

He further argues that our trade negotiators “have profoundly failed Canadians and our future innovators” and allowed us to be systemically encircled by the Americans. In Basillie’s view, we needed a more sophisticated negotiating team, but the Canadian government didn’t dispatch one.

Simply put, he says, “we’ve been outfoxed.”

These comments follow others that Balsillie has made on the issue of innovation in Canada. According to him, all three main parties – Conservatives, Liberals and NDP – have failed in terms of developing strategies to foster innovation in terms of technology, inventions and ideas.

“Canada must establish its own rules for innovation,” he says, “rather than allowing others to tell us what to do.”

Unfortunately, of those innovative companies that have been able to develop, it seems they have only done so in spite of government policy, which remains stuck in old models of innovation that are not consistent with the times.

According to Balsillie, the TPP seems more focused on “potential resource markets than on writing new rules that will allow Canadian high-tech firms to commercialize emerging technologies.”

This latter comment is of particular interest. Is the sharp decline in Canadian manufacturing over the last dozen years, as well as the stagnation of research & development and the neglect of science, a harbinger of things to come regarding the Canadian economy?

With the TPP and other trade deals, is Canada being relegated to the status of a natural resource warehouse for North American and global corporate interests? One that is reduced to exporting raw or semi-processed materials and has no manufacturing or high tech sector to speak of?

If so, the implications are huge for Canadians, their jobs, and our future as a sovereign country.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at:

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