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You may have heard terms like NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement),
FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas),
free trade and
globalisation. You may be aware that some people are violently opposed, willing to risk
their lives to protest. Never do the news commentators explain why. I am going to do that
for you. It turns out the protesters in general are in favour of free trade, just opposed
to the way it has been implemented. It also turns out the politicians have pulled a
boondoggle so outrageous it is hard to believe they are getting away with it.
In 1992 Canadian Prime Minister Brian
Mulroney, the American President George Bush Senior and Mexican President Salinas signed
a free trade agreement called NAFTA. It took effect 1994. It dropped
duties on trade between the countries and made it easier for companies in one country to
invest in the other two. So far so good.
The negotiations were arduous. To push negotiations along, at the last minute, the
Americans tried a bluff, a bargaining chip they intended to push then withdraw. This was
the famous chapter 11 you will hear so much about. Chapter 11 has nothing to do with
bankruptcy; it is a section of the agreement that gave outrageous powers to foreign
corporations. To the American negotiator’s surprise, the Canadians accepted it.
In 2002, negotiations are underway to extend
include 31 new North and South American countries. This new agreement called
has an even stronger version of chapter 11.
Protests are heating up. The Canadian government announced it would shoot free trade
protestors. The right wing Bush administration in the USA and the right wing Harper
government in Canada have funded a propaganda blitz to persuade the public that anyone
who has any reservations about NAFTA is a raving lunatic.
Soon after the US petroleum production had peaked, official policy began emphasising
free trade as a global panacea for unemployment,
underdevelopment and virtually every other economic and political ill. Through the
manipulation of the rules of global trade, the US sought to maintain and increase its
access to natural resources worldwide. Those rules — written primarily by
US-based corporations and encoding in policies of the International Monetary Fund (
IMF (International Monetary Fund)), the World Bank and the World
Trade Organisation (WTO (World Trade Organisation)) as well as treaties like the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) — essentially said that wherever resources lie,
they must be available for sale to the highest bidder. In other words, whoever has the
money to buy those resources has a legally defensible right to them. According to those
rules, the oil of Venezuela belongs to the US every bit as much as if they lay under
the soil of Texas or Missouri. Meanwhile technology, or intellectual property, was regarded as proprietary; thus nations with
prior investments in this stragetgy were at an advantage while underdeveloped nations were sysetatically discouraged from adopting it.
~ Richard Heinberg(born:1950-10-21 age:66),
The Party’s Over
In other words free trade and globalisation are a heads-I-win,
tails-you-lose game rigged in favour of the USA. That is partly how the USA, with only
1/20 of the world’s population, manages to hog most of the planet’s
The Case Against NAFTA in a Nutshell
Even Liberal Minister of the environment Caccia admitted, "
has been an environmental disaster."
prospers the richest 3% of Canadians, but is a disaster for
the rest of us. The wealthy bamboozle the public and bribe politicians to keep
Under NAFTA, Canadian farmers are exporting seven times as much to
the Americans, but are making 24% less income. There are
similar stories in other sectors.
put Canada up for sale at bargain prices. Even Tim Horton’s is now American.
Under NAFTA, Americans have the right to buy as much of our
electricity, oil, gas and water as they please and we are stuck paying
American prices for our own resources.
What is the Matter with the Free Trade Agreement?
There are many complaints, most
centering around chapter 11. The agreement gives foreign corporations the right to sue
the government for any lost profit and any lost future
profit as a result of any government action, even when the corporation
was selling a harmful or dangerous product.
You may be coughing just now, saying preposterous, no government in their
right mind would hand over such a blank cheque to foreign corporations. That was my
reaction when I heard about it Bill Moyer’s documentary Trading
Democracy. Keep in mind who made the agreement — Mulroney and Bush senior,
men known for promoting the interests of the corporations over citizens. Because Chapter
11 gives the corporations the right to sue for billions in lost profit, it gives foreign
corporations immense political power as well.
The agreement gives foreign corporations the effective power to overturn
The agreement gives foreign corporations the effective ability to overturn court
decisions, even those of the supreme court.
The agreement gives foreign corporations the effective right to overturn the rules
for organic food labelling. If a foreign corporation loses sales because their products
don’t quality, either the government has to relax the rules to allow them to
comply or else compensate them for all current and future lost profits.
These lawsuits are not decided in courts, but by secret tribunals, made up of guess
who, industry members! Guess who always wins these lawsuits: the corporations or the
federal governments? These decisions override even the supreme court. The new version
of chapter 11 wants to keep not only the proceedings secret, but also the rulings. The
public will never find out about the billions their government is handing out to
foreign corporations in Chapter 11 lawsuits.
Canadians are alarmed that Chapter 11 will be used to challenge water safety
regulations. Canadas stringent regulations are according to Chapter 11 a restraint of
Canadians are alarmed Chapter 11 lawsuits will destroy the public health care
system. American health providers can sue, since they are losing profits because the
government competes with them in providing health care.
Canadians are alarmed the AOL (America Online) Time Warner will use chapter 11 to dismantle the
subsidies to help the fledgling Canadian publishing industry. Americans should be
alarmed that Mexican agribusinesses could similarly use it to dismantle the extensive
American farm subsidies.
Literally, foreign corporations should not even have to pay any taxes at all since
that interferes with their profitability. Whether they take chapter 11 that far,
foreign corporations still have a huge unfair advantage over domestic ones.
There are two other major problems with free trade:
Trade is not always free. George W. Bush slapped a 33%
duty (illegal under the NAFTA treaty) on Canadian softwood exports to the USA, which
crippled her lumber industry, the number one industry in the provinces of British
Columbia (where I live) and Québec.
Most Canadians suspect,
but cannot prove, that George W. Bush was arm twisting Canada to get Prime Minister
Chrétien to support Bush’s illegal war on Iraq. When that
did not work, Bush raised the duty to 47%. Prime Minister
Chrétien diplomatically told him to shove it up his nostrils.
The price of being the world’s only superpower is that its motives are
sometimes questioned by others. Great strength is not always perceived by others as
benign. Not everyone around the world is prepared to take the word of the United
States on faith.
~ Jean Chrétien
(born:1934-01-11 age:83), Prime Minister of Canada
The USA is a big country and makes up the rules as she goes in her
It weakens the power of the workers. Multinational corporations take jobs wherever
labour is cheapest. Jobs moved from Canada to the US to Mexico and from there to China.
National unions have no power to compete with slave wages in the third world.
You may say, "Yes, such ripoffs may be possible in theory, but
in practice, nothing that outrageous would be allowed to happen." Bill Moyers, a
respected PBS (Public Broadcasting System) journalist
documented a number of abuses, which I summarise below. All amounts in the following
exposition are in:
Under Chapter 11, Raymond Loewen, a Canadian funeral company, sued the US Federal
Government through the tribunal for
because it lost a jury trial in a legal
dispute with a small Louisiana funeral chain owned by Jerry O’Keefe, the mayor of
Biloxi, claiming the jury was biased against Canadians. In the original trial, the jury
to Okeefe. Loewen originally settled for
then struck back some years later with Chapter 11. Here we have a jury trial was
overturned by a secret tribunal, not by a superior court. That should ring alarm bells
for civil libertarians.
Under Chapter 11, Methenex, a Canadian gasoline additive company, sued the US
Federal government for
million because the state of California banned MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether)
gasoline additive that causes cancer in animals.
Under Chapter 11, the Ethyl Corporation, an American gasoline additive company,
successfully sued the Canadian federal government when it banned
MMT (Methycylcopentodieny Manganese Tricarbonyl) in gasoline, even though the additive is illegal in the
USA. Canada could not afford the
lawsuit and so caved in allowed the additive in Canadian gasoline and paid up
for the short time the ban was in effect. To add insult to injury, the settlement
required two cabinet ministers to go on TV and lie to the Canadian people that
MMT was considered completely safe.
Under Chapter 11, Metalclad, an American company successfully sued the federal
government of Mexico for
when local Mexican governments refused them a permit to expand a toxic waste dump until
they had cleaned it up. They took the money then went ahead with the toxic dump without
One of the Canadian negotiators of the free trade agreement said that even if a
company were putting plutonium in children’s food, the company could still sue
for lost profit if they were required to stop. Foreign corporations are insured from
economic risk, unlike domestic corporations, no matter how irresponsibly they behave.
Not only are governments required to compensate them for lost profits, but also for all
lost profits indefinitely into the future. Ironically, the worse the foreign
corporations behave the more they can extort from governments under Chapter 11.
Why would any government in its right mind sign such an agreement that so
seriously undermines its own authority?
Politicians get the bulk of their campaign contributions from corporations and so
they do what the corporations want. The large corporations are quite understandably
wildly in favour of Chapter 11.
The negotiators of the treaty were lawyers who are now in private boutique
practice teaching corporations how to milk the Chapter 11 cow. They put the language in
there on purpose so they could exploit it later. The politicians may not have realised
how foolish they were being when they signed.
Note that the major news media TV and newspapers have a conspiracy of silence of
Chapter 11. Not a one has reported it. Not a one has explained what the free trade
controversy is about. All they show are pictures of protestors and fire hoses as if the
protests were a form of mindless violence.
Trans Pacific Parntership
This is NAFTA extended for the Pacific rim countries. It exempts foreign
countries from Canadian law. It allows a foreign corporations to sue Canada any loss of
profit via foreign tribunals. Further, Canada is not permitted to change any
environmental or labour safety laws once a foreign corporation makes an investment. Prime
Minister Harper is extremely keen on Canada signing this pact because it gives many new
rights to corporations and many new obligations to goverments.
Book referral for The Truth about Canada: Some Important, Some Astonishing and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country
recommend book⇒The Truth about Canada: Some Important, Some Astonishing and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country
Hurtig points out that if you compare Canada economically before and after NAFTA, all 30 indicators he looked at show Canada was better off before. NAFTA’s purpose is to transfer Canadian sovreignty to corporations. International corporations get rich off NAFTA, but ordinary citizens have just gotten screwed. I talked with Mr. Hurtig at a book signing. He has thousands of facts at his fingertips.
How well do you know Canada?
Statistics about Canada
Statistics about Canada
percent improvement in child poverty since 1989.
percent increase in middle class income, inflation-adjusted income since 1980.
percent of Canadians who donated to any political party in 2006.
percent of direct foreign investment that created new jobs, 97.6% was for takeover of existing companies which diverted the profits to offshore tax havens.
percent of jobs that are paid too low to provide food, shelter and heat. 8-12% is typical in Europe.
percent foreign takeovers financed by Canadian banks.
percent drop in foreign aid since 1975.
percentage of print and TV media in Vancouver BC owned by one company.
percent of Canadians who have never belonged to any political party.
percent increase in GDP since 1989.
percent increase in share of the economic pie by taken by investors at the expense of workers since 1992.
~ Mel Hurtig (born: 1932-06-24)
Online bookstores carrying The Truth about Canada: Some Important, Some Astonishing and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country
Paul Hellyer was Canada’s former defense minister. He methodically builds a case that George Bush is out for military domination of the whole planet, which includes Canada. He lets the neocon villains condemn themselves in their own words. Bush it turns out is far worse that your worst nightmares, not only for the USA, but for the entire world. He explains why, if NAFTA is extended with the FTAA, it will be the end of Canada.
Online bookstores carrying One Big Party: To Keep Canada Independent
MacArthur is editor of Harper’s Magazine. People have accepted NAFTA because few people bothered to read the agreement and discover it had nothing at all to do with free trade. It is about giving Americans the same rights as Canadians when it comes to buying up Canadian resources and companies.
Online bookstores carrying The Selling of Free Trade: NAFTA, Washington and the Subversion of American Democracy