Do you care about challenges unfolding globally, not only for you, but also for future people coming to this beautiful planet? Trade is the only cross-continental plan, bound by law, focused on the everyday content of our lives. It’s truly the business of our futures. The Alternative Trade Mandate is one of many community-driven coalitions encouraging public dialogue to ponder and plan what trade could be.
Trade discourse sounds far away from our personal lives but it isn’t. The content of trade is now local. Since the eighties trade has rapidly shifted focus to community assets – like public services. With few tariffs remaining for goods around the globe, trade’s core content has become the stuff of elections – rules about control of contracts for: energy, health care, water, transit, and more. It shapes the parametres for pressing twenty-first century issues like food security and internet privacy. With 3000+ investment deals, trade is setting the rules of nation to nation relationship. Ultimately, the new trade shapes the nation to corporation dynamic.
The Alternative Trade Mandate, an alliance of over fifty European organizations, seeks to bring trade back to the public realm. “Our belief is that Europe’s trade has to be fundamentally changed. Our alternative respects human rights, and is democratically controlled by parliamentarians and the public…We propose a trade policy that increases economic, social and environmental well-being globally.” www.alternativetrademandate.org
Trade deal enforcement has been given greater power than national laws. Trade of all types (from FIPA’s to BIT’s to MIT’s) are increasingly controlled by Investor State Dispute Settlement, ISDS. This one-direction lawsuit mechanism allows corporations to sue countries for laws that shrink anticipated profits. In this paradigm, a nation’s behaviour is contentious if it sets performance requirements for transnationals involving standards of health, environment, labour. Trade is potent to our futures because its terms last longer than four-year governance. The Foreign Investment Protections Agreement (FIPA) between China and Canada, ratified in October 2014, is thirty-one years.
Trade is becoming the standard from which politics for every nation flows. If it is to be the rulebook for the global future, trade must contextualize the rapid changes upon us. While climate shifts and other serious issues contend for the future of the coming generations, trade deals are focused on extracted measures, like the GDP, not the best scales of well-being, prosperity and stability in local communities. We need vision and light to pop open the sealed doors of the negotiation rooms. A whole lot of writing, thinking, reflecting and talking about trade among civil society like the Alternative Trade Mandate is necessary medicine for the future.