Renegotiations of NAFTA
We must place interests of Canadians above corporations in new trade deal with U.S.
When is it OK to place business interests above public ones? Ideally the answer would be never. Yet Canada has done the opposite.
Under the then government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the importance of businesses were placed well above the significance of Canadians when it enforced the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in January 1994. At that time, investments and profits of foreign corporations became legally guaranteed.
Chapter 11 of NAFTA with its Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause made this a reality. In other words, ISDS gave corporations the legal rights to sue the Canadian government if any federal and/or provincial public policy or government action denies them their guaranteed earnings. This is unmitigated capitalism.
It is also costly for Canadian taxpayers as billions of dollars have been spent on legal fees and settlements. If Chapter 11 is not scrapped from NAFTA during its renegotiation, I anticipate more and more tax dollars will be spent to fulfill its ISDS clause. Canadians cannot afford this.
Foreign influence in Canada’s economy can sometimes be veiled. A case in point is a Canadian energy company Lone Pine, a subsidiary of an American corporation. Lone Pine sued the Canadian government through its American affiliate for $118.9 million USD because Quebec introduced a temporary moratorium on oil and gas fracking under the St. Lawrence River.
At the Paris Summit on Climate Change in November 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made it crystal clear that climate change is a real and urgent threat. He said, “This (climate change) is the fight of our generation...the entire planet is in danger.” I applauded him for making this statement and for his commitment to fighting climate change. I interpret this official attitude as the recognition of placing Canadian needs and our precious environment above all else.
At present, Chapter 11 is undoubtedly contrary to Trudeau’s stance on climate change.
Canadians will have their eyes on Trudeau as he renegotiates NAFTA. This is his prime opportunity to scrap the costly and inefficient Chapter 11 with its ISDS clause.
If he accomplishes this, Trudeau will be in good company with the leaders of many nations who also have eliminated such a clause. The first one took place in 1959 between Pakistan and Germany. Recently, countries such as Ecuador, Brazil, India,
Australia, South Africa and Indonesia have successfully scrapped the ISDS clauses in their economic trade deals. Their leaders have already learned that there is no compelling evidence to show that ISDS has produced any significant economic benefits for their nations.
I trust that Trudeau has also learned this valuable lesson. By scrapping Chapter 11 with its ISDS clause of NAFTA, this is one of the best ways Trudeau can secure the interests of Canadians and protect our vulnerable environment of today and in the foreseeable future.
Betty L. E. Wilcox of Stanhope is a supporter and the treasurer of the Council of Canadians, P.E.I. Chapter