By Letter to the Editor on July 7, 2017.
Re: “Canada most sued nation under NAFTA,” June 29
If only one positive thing comes from Donald Trump being elected president of the U.S., then perhaps the opportunity to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is it.
This so-called trade deal has given us Chapter 11 corporate lawsuits that have cost Canada tens of millions of dollars so far with billions more in pending claims, eroded environmental and public policy, hollowed out manufacturing towns and put hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and greater inequality in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
No one is against trade but deals like NAFTA are really a Bill of Rights for corporations. Under NAFTA’s investment chapter, corporations are granted “private legal standing” or the ability to sue governments directly and to seek monetary damages when governments pass legislation that might prevent corporations from selling dangerous products. Cases are heard by unelected tribunals.
One example is Ethyl Corporation vs. Government of Canada, whereby Canada’s ban on fuel additive MMT (for health and environmental reasons) — https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/212/45381.html — was deemed unfair by Ethyl Corp. and they sued Canada for $350 million in 1997. The $19.5 settlement compensation payment to Ethyl for lost profits and legal costs exceeds the total 1998 Environment Canada budget for enforcement and compliance programmes. Canada also had to issue a statement saying that the manganese-based additive is not an environmental or health risk.
It is these Investor State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) in NAFTA and the other alphabet soup of “trade deals” (CETA, TPP) that make them dangerously undemocratic. The government must move to protect our sovereignty in the renegotiations, including removal of all references to water as a good, service or investment and eliminate NAFTA’s energy proportionality rule, which requires Canada to export a locked-in percentage of our energy production to the U.S.
We must demand public input around the NAFTA renegotiations.
(The writer belongs to the Medicine Hat chapter, Council of Canadians)
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