Rene­go­ti­a­tions of NAFTA

We must place in­ter­ests of Cana­di­ans above cor­po­ra­tions in new trade deal with U.S.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY BETTY WIL­COX

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.