New Generation Trade blog

A call for trade that protects the new generations coming to this beautiful planet.

Trudeau, Transparency and the TPP

Image from NASA Creative Commons

NASA Photo Credit

Support for Transparency — The new prime minister was elected on a platform of transparency. On the day of his swearing in, he vowed that openness and transparency would be central to his government. Canadians went in increased numbers to the polls to support this call.

Withheld Until Signed – The Transpacific Partnership, TPP, is not just the first large issue the Liberals face; their response will reveal the level of commitment they have to their platform. The text of the TPP, like its partner treaty the CETA, was withheld from the public and most of parliament during negotiations. Now completed, many, including those from the business community, have said the deal is worse than predicted. Some of the TPP’s issues are: limiting markets for the Canadian auto sector, increasing costs of life-saving drugs and giving corporations the capacity to sue nations when laws and regulations decrease investments guaranteed in the text. Though the significant changes that the TPP brings will shape the regulatory power of all future governments if ratified, the TPP was not debated or mandated by the voting public. We could not even see the text until negotiations finished. Finally, the TPP text has now been posted to the Canadian government’s website.

The TPP is for Investors — There is only about 1% of tariffs for the major trading partners left. People do not need big trade deals for more access to goods. Investors need them for access to future markets like public services, banks, copyright, etc. Who are the investors? They are the corporations given market control over goods, services, finances and judicial powers of signatory nations. A handful of the chapters of the TPP are about goods; the rest are about regulatory convergence in drugs, agriculture, internet and more. The TPP does not increase access for the public to essential services or products, in fact, in some cases, it will do the opposite while investors are eased of the burden of national restrictions in the form of regulations, bylaws, and the constitution. Citizens or nations cannot enforce or challenge any aspects of the treaty; there is literally no mechanism written into the text to do so — only investors have binding rights through the dispute chapter, based on NAFTA’s chapter eleven: Investor State Dispute Settlement. This, in essence, gives the investors their own justice system, in the form of private arbitration panel. One only needs to consider the words — Investor State — to understand who the so-called free trade is for.

The TPP should be decided by referendum — The Liberal government inherited the TPP and close to forty other corporate trade pacts, including the CETA, from the Harper Conservatives. There is no doubt, from a democracy perspective, this is a tricky context to begin a new parliament. However, the Liberals have already said they support the TPP in principle and will wait to analyze the details before endorsing it. Without rigorous Canadian debate in the provinces, territories, and municipalities, and authentic discussion with First Nations communities, it is going to be very difficult for Prime Minister Trudeau’s team to keep their vow of openness and transparency. The Investor State TPP changes the rules of the game for transparency far into the future. Who dictates national and provincial policy? In an open and transparent government, it is the people through elected representatives, not corporations through closed-door deals signed by governments. Very few things deserve a referendum. Giving foreign corporations policy power and permanent rights is worthy of one. The Trudeau government, to be transparent and accountable, should call a referendum on the TPP.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a first speech in office:Openness and transparency will be our constant companions, and we will work to restore Canadians’ trust in their government and in our democracy. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and applying the utmost care.” If the Prime Minister really means that, he will bring ethics and transparency to where they are most lacking: the new trade deals like the TPP and the CETA.


For the Love of Food: Resisting the TPP

Photo from Wikimedia

Photo from Wikimedia

Hormones in our milk? – Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) is coming to markets near you via the Transpacific Partnership (TPP). BGH has been used in American agriculture since the nineties. By injecting cows with BGH, Monsanto has been increasing yields and profits. From 1994 to 1998, Dr. Shiv Chopra and Maude Barlow educated Canadians to pass a moratorium on hormone milk, and so BGH has never been okayed by Health Canada. However, Dr. Chopra is now warning that the moratorium on BGH will be mute with the TPP, a trade deal which regulates much more than the price of goods. When interviewed on the CBC last week Chopra said — “We worked upon it so much and got [bovine growth hormone] rejected in Canada…Now, under the trade agreement, it’s going to let the flood-gates open.”

Discriminating against corporations? — Under the TPP – TTIP – CETA, transnational corporations will direct the flow of products, services, and commerce. Though 87% of Canadians are concerned about the TPP lowering food safety standards, according to an Environics poll commissioned by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, they won’t be able to protect their families under the TPP because upholding a moratorium on BGH would be discriminatory to American agri-business. In the new trade, social, ethical or environmental restrictions placed on investors (corporations) which limit profits, like a moratorium on BGH milk, is discriminatory and cause for an ISDS lawsuit. Using NAFTA, the very first trade of this magnitude, Lone Pine Corp. is presently suing Canada for 250 million dollars for its moratorium on fracking in Quebec. Taxpayers pay the bill. Future generations pay the price. Protective regulations are dropped when they do not fit the economic obligations of the treaty. In the TPP those regulatory areas include, but are not limited to, agriculture, public services, internet freedom, pharmaceutical costs, and more.

Want your say? — If the TPP is ratified the way it is written, Canadians will be consuming hormones in dairy. Further, if the CAN-EU CETA or the US-EU TTIP is ratified, so will Europeans. We risk the right to select the food we choose to feed our families across the continents of all the signatory nations — Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania. With trade of this animal, the only enforceable chapter is Chapter 11,  the profit of investors. Everyday citizens are not invited to help shape the policy at the top of the food chain. Don’t you think it’s time you had your say?

The Cheating Nature of the TPP

The TPP_Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Controversial Content — The TPP contains a lot of controversial content – stuff that is clearly not trade – like increased drug costs for patients, restrictions to internet use, barriers to GMO safety labeling and more. But the first place to look to understand the nature of the TPP is how it will be enforced. Like other new generation deals: the defeated MAI and NAFTA, the TPP’s outcomes will be decided by unelected arbitration panels, based on NAFTA’s Chapter Eleven, called Investor State Dispute Settlement. ISDS is the foundation of all the new deals — it defines how and what the investors (re: transnational corporations) can change in a country in terms of its goods, services, finances, and policies. Under an ISDS framework, only the claims of the corporations, not the countries or the citizens, are juried.

An expansion of NAFTA — The TPP has been labeled an expansion of NAFTA by its creators and critics. To grasp its potential for damage, look no farther then NAFTA’s nearing one hundred cases brought against Canadians, Mexicans and Americans. NAFTA forced tax-payers to pay fees and settlements to corporations for health and safety regulations that obstructed anticipated profits. From marine life protection (Bilcon vs. Canada) to municipal landfill safety (Metalclad vs. Mexico) to toxic waste transport (SD Myers vs. Canada), a variety of complaints have been successfully argued by corporations against established laws and policy. Citizens have not been made aware their tax dollars are paying for the lawsuits in these supranational courts. The TPP gives corporations prior consent to fine us for health, manufacturing, and other policy that limits new areas of corporate profit.

Track Record or Promises — If your boss says they value your work, but passes you over for promotions, is it their words you value? If you’re partner claims commitment but cheats on you, do you believe their expressions or their behaviour? The predecessor of the TPP has a track record of cheating the people of Mexico, the US and Canada of their laws, their public safeguards, and their community security. Trade is the ultimate example of governments in bed with transnational corporations. What will you believe about the TPP: its track record or the accolades of its advocates?

The Good News on the TPP

1b_Knowledge is Power_ImageNASA JPL Photo credit

The text of the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) was finalized behind closed doors in Atlanta last week, and millions grieved. The CETA half of the TTIP was completed in September 2014 to upset thousands upon thousands. Neither have been ratified, and the number of people knowing about the new trade, that isn’t actually trade, is growing on the daily. By cutting off pharmaceuticals for cancer patients, multi-lateral corporate trade pacts have acquired a new following. By threatening freedom of online speech, internet users are uniting to speak out against the TPP. By restricting sovereign agriculture, like Japan’s rice farmers, and proud manufacturers, like Canadian autoworkers, regular people are not buying so-called trade. Farmers on their tractors took to Canada’s capital in September 2015, and thousands of Japanese citizens, for whom protest has little precedence, have flowed through Tokyo’s streets. Yesterday, over 250 000 people chose raising their voices in Berlin over all other options. These diverse groups appearing on the world stage are an expression of knowledge and their act is one of determination. So the good news is that many people are talking now, and when the numbers rise reach critical mass, there is power. As in all civil rights movements, knowledge takes time to spread; the difference now is that we have the internet. Take heart in every connection. And know this TPP, or TTIP, or CETA, or any other multi letter delusion of law and politic: our response is to speak with more passion, to drive our lives with more inter-being, greater depth of purpose, and make all forms of ISDS our business to tell. Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you. It’s about caring for the security of new generations coming to this beautiful planet. And it is only a matter of time until the shift. What is unknown is how much time you will take. In these years of global redirect for fair economy, full democracy, stable climate, how much energy will you require? Our resistance is expanding. Our power is in knowing. Once people know, they do not like the new trade. Word by word, we are taking our power back.

The Great Turning – Negotiations for Public Power

#changetheCETA-TTIP #reclaimHydroOne #bringbacktheFQD

Who will control our power in this crucial decade? With the race for climate security on, energy is risky (and expensive) business to be run by corporations. We know there has been irreversible damage to the atmosphere, land and waters. We feel shame and we want change. More serious than the carbon impact of one company, the risks of regional management by a fossil fuel cartel are many. A sustainable energy future requires public control. What will it take for the government of Canada to follow the people’s will?

#PremierWynne #p3ingofpublicpower #theclimateforchangeisgrowing

The Great Turning We live in a time of contrast that raises hope and fear. We put our heads in the sand or open our minds to the question – how can I serve? For me the pressure brings both responses: hope inspired by creative localization, and fear and grief from the dismantling of the commons by private interests. David Korten, and other progressives, call this time of tumultuous change: the Great Turning. Trade and investment pacts are mechanisms of the power crisis because they are the long-term platform for the extraction-privatization of nations. With the new deals, city assets and municipal energy bodies are being traded on the free market. In Ontario where I live provincial and municipal energy service is in the process of being privatized. Selling this people’s asset without permission, and hiring private corporations to run it into perpetuity, is a deal breaker for me. In these energy shaky times, I want the next generation to inherit a public system. This knowing is resultant from more than my Tar Sands shame. Privatizing the energy of Canada’s most populous province risks essential stuff, like affordable rates and service quality. In this blog I explore why energy sectors should not privatize, and if they do, never through trade. I also ask questions about the plans to deregulate Ontario energy.

#notonmywatch #nopublicmandate #keephydropublic

Extreme Risks  What does it mean to have corporations be in charge of energy? Very few of us can survive off the grid – the majority rely on public energy. All day long we employ energy sources in service of our eating, bathing, working, learning. Nearly all our activities are beholden to shared power. Just like water, energy is essential and the quality of our lives depends on its availability. Many problems can arise when energy becomes managed by for-profit interests. With privatization (or p3ing) we frequently see: decreased access, service limitations, job cuts, rate increases, and environmental risks. California saw rolling blackouts when they privatized. Ontario has its own privatization stories that have increased stress and expense like the 407 highway and Hamilton city water. Because of repeated problems, many municipalities are bringing energy (and other life-dependent sectors) back to public hands. Hamburg Germany residents won an energy referendum in 2013 and are in the process of bringing their energy service fully public again. The purpose behind the “Our Hamburg, Our Grid” campaign is to reclaim public authority in order to create a system based in renewables. Under a North American style trade treaty, like CETA-TTIP, this change could be difficult.

Ontario announces privatization Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, recently announced her intention to sell 60% of the public’s energy shares. Last week, at the London town hall for a public Hydro One, Andrea Horwath, MPP for Hamilton and head of the Ontario NDP party, announced that this number could reach 90% or higher. The transfer of power remains regardless of the percentage, however, Horwath shared this — if Ontario ownership reaches below 10%, the legislation implies that the public will be barred from bringing it back to public control. Why privatize a successful crown corporation that has been generating funds and providing stability since 1906? The government says they will privatize Hydro One to build other public infrastructure – transit lines, roads and bridges with an anticipated 4 billion of the sales, and to pay off debt with the other anticipated 5 billion. This asset makes 300 million a year in dividend income for Ontario people. Why sell it off for small short-term gain when the return is long-term losses forever? The danger for our future is not only the loss of reliable consistent funding but also the ability to shape our energy program and monitor its integrity. The auditor general and provincial ombudsperson have warned that they will no longer be able to monitor a private Hydro One.

Plausible Future Outcomes Big business investors cannot focus on equitable rates and environmental impacts at the expense of their bottom-line. Company survival depends on increasing profit. This does not an-evil-corporation-make, but a dangerous mismatch of public need with private goals. How do energy corporations manage their quarterly profit targets? Increases in rates, decreases in service, or cutting of jobs is likely. What else can do they do to make more money in a context that requires profit growth? In a future Hydro One, we would have no shareholder voice to create renewable infrastructure. The premier knows that we must take care of the climate. She announced a commitment to dealing with climate change this spring. However, encouraging corporations to run Ontario’s energy is fundamentally incongruent with sustainability. Ontario public energy was previously funding renewables until local procurement provisions were banned by the World Trade Organization. Trade law gets in the way of environmental change. More of the story can be found here:

Ontario Energy & Trade Pacts The government should not make key policy and structural changes without a public mandate. Doing this behind closed doors and legislating far into the future through trade treaties, like the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), encourages skepticism. For the first time Canadian energy entities of provincial jurisdiction, like Hydro One, and municipal jurisdiction, like Toronto Hydro, will be ruled through international treaty law. According to the CETA text, Ontario’s energy, including Hydro One, the Ontario Energy Board, and major municipal entities are not protected by Annex reservations. On the European side of CETA-TTIP, sustainable energy choices are also not protected. Europeans will lose their ability to favour cleaner energy sources or suffer the threats of ISDS lawsuits.

Taking Back Power from the CETA-TTIP There are many things that work in a profit model, and many that don’t! Corporate energy systems, that put us at risk of going even higher in parts per million, is not on my list of what the generation after us should inherit. What I love about this time is the sweet significance it holds. The Great Turning is abundant with ways to make purpose of our quiet lives. It’s a time of opportunity to think about what we stand for and what we can do to make things better for those coming next. How we power this planet should not be decided by a management team of large corporations nor secretly designed in a trade deal. What you will you do with your power in the Great Turning? What part of story do you feel compelled to voice? Canadian economist Marjorie Griffin Cohen, back in the early days of new trade, in a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study, says this of energy: “It is an industry that provides for human survival in a densely populated and complex world. Electricity is the basic infrastructure for every industry. The significance of who controls its generation and supply cannot be overstated.” After all, energy is an expression of our collective power as a civilization. Right now that power is being taken away. There are so many other possibilities. Let’s shine a light on them.

#findyourpower #whatsyourlegacy

Free Trade Shrinks Possibilities for Youth

“Trade agreements do not create jobs. Never have. Never will.” Michael Hart, Trade Policy, Carleton University

Family Well-Being — Job security is a serious concern for everyone but especially weighs heavy in the hearts of parents of millennial children. Worry over shrinking opportunities for quality jobs is high here in Southwestern Ontario and throughout North America, particularly in traditional manufacturing regions. Caterpillar, Kellogg’s, Heinz closures come to mind. Your list may differ from mine but the disappearance of community infrastructure since the NAFTA 90’s is a shared experience. You know the story: parent company makes cuts, workers unite to protect a living wage, factory closes then reopens in a cheaper trade zone. NAFTA inspired the era of offshore and North Americans see its signs in their shrinking bank accounts and higher debt. Under free trade regimes that follow the NAFTA template (like the TPP) multitudes have, and will experience more family duress.

Corporate Trade Creates Job Insecurity – There is a difference between having a job and job security. This difference has been experienced over and over by Canadian, American, and Mexican families under NAFTA. Over two decades into this next generation trade deal and all three signatory countries have seen rising unemployment and the swapping of full-time jobs for part-time work. It’s cause and effect — free trade’s admitted purpose is to send goods and services around the globe with no interference. This encourages corporations to move to where rent is cheaper. Canada has lost over 500 000 manufacturing jobs since factories left in 1989, the start of the new free trade. The closures haven’t stopped. Public Citizen data shows that over 845, 000 people are registered for compensation for job loss from free trade called Trade Adjustment Assistance in the US. The reality for both countries has likely been more undocumented job losses while large corporations abandon community relationships.  The redeeming factor of NAFTA should have been the raising of quality of life in Mexico. But Mexico too has experienced lower wages and worse conditions in competitions for the cheapest costs. The Maquiladora free trade factory zones have become heavily concentrated with health and safety violations. Mexico lost over 2 million agriculture jobs because of the US’ subsidized corn industry. These deals lower standards and destroy community-business relations because of their purpose — to remove barriers to investors profits. We can do better with our trade designs but not until people know about their importance. There is more data but do we need it? We know unemployment has risen through the free trade years: we see community members out of work, we see the continual closure of mom–and–pop shops, and we see people desperate, yet hopeful, for job security.

The TPP  — There are trade and investment deals in negotiation now that are based on the NAFTA model but whose impacts will be broader. The Transpacific Partnership (TPP), a deal between the NAFTA countries and nine other Asia-Pacific nations, if passed, will set NAFTA-style norms for 40% of the world’s economy and include more sectors. That’s a lot of families whose jobs and wealth will be influenced. The TPP will make it easier for companies to offshore in places like Vietnam where minimum wage is approximately 60 cents per hour. We don’t typically think of minimum wage as a trade issue, but in the new deals, labour standards have been framed as an illegal barrier preventing investor profit. Egypt was sued in trade court for raising its minimum wage. Focusing on the cheapest deliverables cheapens society. The problem lies not in particular people or particular corporations but in a system that promotes business at the expense of communities.

A Caring Economy for Families — There are many opportunities to create diverse trade patterns and raise the quality of society through ethical business. Some of the most popular businesses are becoming those that invest in social relationship and community well-being. Trade structures will need to respond to this change.  People are returning to their local roots. We are beginning to emerge from free trade fog and it is every day people beckoning forth the change through what they desire — local food, local history, regional travel, and the emerging consciousness that every community needs to take care of its local fabric and workforce. This keeps us sovereign and fed! Let us continue to incent entrepreneurship in our communities and peel back the aspects of free trade that stifle local infrastructure. We are better than policy that offshores our children’s dreams only to break down communities elsewhere. This is one step forward for a program of trade that is healthy. Our families and children are worth it. Fair trade that nourishes communities could be our legacy.

Unicorns, Trojan Horses, and the New Breed of Trade

Exploring the underlying myths of new trade pacts like the TPP. Myth #1–ISDS makes trade secure.

The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Domenico Tiepolo, 1773

Telling Tales — Last night while the glow of dusk was settling, through the trees I glimpsed an ancient creature. Its wide eyes glinting in the shifting light. As I moved closer, this magnificent being vanished abruptly, leaving no trace of hoof or horn. Unicorns, like fairies and other mythical creatures, arouse joy and awaken non-linear capacity. However, some myths do ferocious harm. Corporate globalization is based on the myth of trickle down — this ideology suggests that if we remove barriers from mega corporations to wealth, their amassed profit will trickle down to all communities below. ISDS, Investor State Dispute Settlement, is how trickle down is enforced and a legal mechanism for global trade pacts. Repackaged in abstract terminology, trade documents can appear distant from our lives. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Trade is restructuring how communities of species, workers, politicians, and more, operate. This epic mythology has a foot-hold in an unexpected area – international law. A corporate legal system, exemplified in ISDS, is the foundation of 2600 Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT’s) and 300 free trade agreements (FTA’s). Trade law explicitly limits the power of nations to uphold social, environmental and labour laws, while presiding over the profits of transnationals. ISDS symbolizes the worst in globalization’s ethos — a hunger to possess more at the expense of others.

The Trojan Horse – The unicorn is miniscule compared to the new ISDS trade deals, often depicted as Trojan horses, because of their secrecy and all the restrictions to social regulations that come to light after implemented. ISDS gained prominence in 1994 under the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA ventured into territory far beyond goods and changed environmental, social and labour rulings in its signatory countries: the US, Mexico and Canada. It was falsely argued that a special court system was needed to protect company assets against Mexican courts. Under NAFTA, about twenty-two cases have been launched against Mexico, costing the Mexican people millions in fines, and plenty to their environment, jobs and quality of life. However, Mexico has not sued any corporations under NAFTA for environmental, social, cultural and labour threats, because ISDS has no mechanism to uphold the policies of nations.

The New Breed of Trade — ISDS now drives the trade program of most of the world’s highest GDP countries through BITs and FTAs. The goal is to have one large body governing all states under corporate law. This plan is in sight with the huge multilateral deals in negotiation right now — the TTP, TTIP, and CETA. The TTP is processing rapidly and ISDS is believed to be its foundation. This is highly likely, not only because of the content of a leaked TPP document, but because the lawsuits are the enforcement norm of key countries negotiating the deal, and promoters call the TPP “NAFTA-plus”. The TPP text is not allowed to be seen by the public or the vast majority of elected representatives; apparently it’s unviewable until 4 years post-ratification.

The TPP’s Wide Gait – The TPP is for the investors of the NAFTA countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. Some key topics of this deal are access to patents & affordable drugs, and copyright & limitations to internet communication. People are also quite worried about food safety issues: increased pesticide residue levels, additives and bans on GMO labeling. In the US last week, despite public outcry and leadership from politicians in both parties, fast-track authority was granted to give the president more control over the implementation of the TPP. Now, no American government representatives can request amendments on the deal, but only vote yes or no on its implementation. Earlier this month, April 18 2015, there were over 400 global events resisting the TPP and a massive Trojan Horse structure appeared at many protests. This dark horse does not bring trade security or strength. This type of trade does inflame the public because of its gross interpretation of law.

Reclaiming International Law –What would trade look like of another breed, one that embodied healing for the generations coming to this beautiful planet? A truly new generation trade would help realize the dream to protect public Commons — water, energy, climate, and more. It’s time to reign in the wild imaginations of extreme profit and reclaim international law. The unicorn loving generation, and the rest of us, have right to an international legal system that brings security to the planet and restricts cutthroat economics. What about a world where people enjoy the beauty of mythology without the kind that creates generational fog and despair. Modern trade regimes are full of concepts that just don’t exist in the real economy or the real world. Years from now, these will be viewed with sad astonishment. But for now, our trade reality is incongruent with basic community goals on every continent. We must champion our deepest wishes for true security and lead this animal down a different track.