New Generation Trade blog

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

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

Corporate Profits Ruled More Valuable Than Dolphin Lives

WTO Rules Against Dolphins – This week’s WTO ruling against a measure to protect dolphins does not reflect the interests of the new generations coming to this beautiful planet. The World Trade Organization (WTO) declared that a labeling program, which allows consumers to identify and choose tuna not implicated in the death of dolphins, is unfair to corporations. The labeling was initiated in the nineties to protect schools of dolphins from being swept into nets during tuna catches. Originally, the program helped decrease their deaths by 97% but was watered down to comply with previous trade rulings. The new labeling program became voluntary for companies and was rejected as illegal in trade law this week.

Protecting Dolphins Called Discriminatory –The WTO, the world’s legal advisory body for free trade, said the dolphin protection measure was discriminatory to business, and a technical trade barrier. If the US keeps the program, the WTO advised Mexico, the complainant country, to impose trade sanctions. This is another example of how the so-called efficiency of the market does not reflect the true value of things, like dolphins, nor synchronize with the values of the public, like honouring the lives of precious species. The dolphin decision follows upon last month’s NAFTA ruling in favour of a corporation over an ecosystem home to endangered whales. The decision to protect this aquatic area was also called discriminatory to business interests.

Trade at All Costs — The market has no capacity to respond to sadness over dolphin slaughter. It only has tools to respond to numbers. Should it be in charge of decisions that are environmental or social? Despite appearances, this is not an Atwood dystopia but simply expected results in the context of present trade rules. As the WTO and ISDS rulings stack up across the globe, there appears to be no area of public interest 100% safe from trade’s imposition on behalf of big business. Whether dolphins, whales, solar panels, or smoking prevention, the free market trade model is unable to respond to social or environmental concern. Modern trade as designed now has one capacity: to protect profit of corporations at all costs.

An economic system distant from public belief but intimate with our lives — This is an economic system that denies basic protections for dolphins in a time when so many care about biodiversity. For dolphins, whales, all endangered species and the inheritance of our children and theirs, let’s shine a light on this type of trade. It is not another symptom, but in fact a foundational structure for exploration if we wish to create the world we want. We can create global treaties that legally protect ecosystems and allow business to prosper, but we need more interests at the trade policy table. As trade has moved into every area of public life, it’s time the dialogue is public. Read about the rising movement for the Rights of Mother Earth, potent medicine for corporate trade. Let the law-makers rise, pressed by you and yours, to protect our most valuable inheritance, the great blue planet and all her creatures!

Further Reading:

ISDS Should Go the Way of the Dinosaur for Threatening Marine Life

Another ISDS Ruling to Punish for Environmental Protections… Last week’s blog explored the latest ISDS lawsuit against Canada under NAFTA, another loss for global environmental protections. A US corporation’s proposal to greatly enlarge an extraction operation, near the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, was rejected by Canada because of multiple ecosystem, species and livelihood risks. The trade tribunal sided with the corporation and the company seeks $300 million compensation from Canadians for loss of anticipated resource profits.

Quarry Region Full of Life… Digby’s Neck, Nova Scotia, a fifty-eight kilometre peninsula connected to the Bay of Fundy, is home to at-risk whales and marine life: Atlantic Salmon, Blue Whales, Leatherback Turtles, including the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. The region is also a migratory stop for millions of birds like Harlequin Ducks and the Common Loon, and breeding ground for numerous species. The area’s economy is based in eco-tourism. The joint provincial-federal panel felt after detailed study, gathered from environmental assessment and local input, that the proposal did not reflect core community values.  With the length and scope of the extraction, including a water terminal to ship the basalt through the Bay to the States, it was unclear how serious economic-ecological risk could be adequately avoided.

A Corporate Court System… Across the globe, in places as diverse as Australia, Germany, Columbia, South Korea and Digby’s Neck, un-elected, for-profit ISDS lawyers are ordering countries to pay compensation to corporations for not fostering profits expected through trade deals. Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, labelled this a “corporate court system”. Last week, a trade tribunal of three corporate lawyers (one of whom disagreed) fined Canadians for the their government’s attempt to protect an at-risk watershed instead of giving a rock contract to the US company, Bilcon. The term corporate court system is applicable.

Verdict: ISDS Irrepairable…  Trade justice is about protecting ecosystems from corporate trade tribunals that circumvent national and local environmental protections. We would be wise to re-evaluate an international court system that limits our ability to protect species and evaluate disputes only for the side of private profit. Trade that is truly for the next generation, would take steps to protect at-risk species for all of us, and the little people not yet on the planet. Trade whose goal was enhancing value in communities, now and into the future, would not punish governments for achieving their duty of protecting community interests.

The Dinosaur… The walk of the dinosaur is about 150 million years longer than what humans have achieved so far. If we intend to lengthen our stay, we need a far more balanced plan of international law than one designed to protect the profits of transnational corporations at the expense of ecosystems, species, and human-culture communities. With its legalization of profit-at-all-costs, ISDS puts the human species at risk.

Further Reading: Global Justice Now

Justice and Discrimination Appropriated by ISDS

The concepts of justice and discrimination are being turned upside down to favour transnational corporations. Martin Luther King Jr. would be rolling in his grave at the number of ISDS cases piling up across the globe for a corporation’s right to “justice” and “freedom from discrimination”.

Another resource company wins profit rights under NAFTA – The Canadian Press reported last week that Canada has lost another case in the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system to a US aggregate rock company, Bilcon, for its right to expand a quarry under NAFTA. The private tribunal sided against a Canadian governmental review’s decision not to enlarge an existing quarry in the southwest part of Nova Scotia. The trade court representatives stated that it was unfair for officials to encourage the quarry’s development and then decide not to go ahead.  The company would be shipping 2 million tons of basalt a year to the US from Nova Scotia for the next 50 years. Bilcon is asking for $300 million in damages for loss of profits. This ruling follows a decision earlier this month when Canadians were ordered to pay $17 million to ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil for their profit rights uninterrupted by regional economic development policy in Newfoundland and Labrador. If a nation restricts profit to a foreign corporation for various reasons: the promotion of local economic development (the ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil case) or because a government review panel believes it’s environmentally risky (the Bilcon case), corporations have a legal system to overturn these decisions.

Reversing the meaning of justice and discrimination – Discrimination and justice have been key teachings in raising global consciousness in the struggle for human rights. These concepts were not intended for making profits, nor to be used against citizens’ own public protection policies. The absurdity of appropriating them to protect a corporation’s profits at the expense of a community’s security leaves one speechless. Well, for a moment. Enter “expropriation”. Expropriation is a common trade rule invoked in ISDS cases. Expropriation can make it illegal for a country to diminish anticipated corporate profits if their sector was opened for access in a free trade agreement. Initially, expropriation was intended to protect the physical assets of a company from things like factory seizure. This concept used in ISDS courts is chipping away at the foundation of human rights standards. If a corporation feels they have been treated unfairly by a host country, they may call this “discrimination” and be entitled to a hearing. Through NAFTA’s resource sector openings, both ExxonMobil/Murphy Oil and Bilcon won rights beyond national or provincial decisions. There are over seventy-five known private tribunal NAFTA cases, and they are fast on the rise.

Not just a Canadian problem – ISDS is not just a problem in Canada. Many nations, more vulnerable than Canada, have lost ISDS cases over their local and national policies. Some, particularly in Latin America, have lost against Canadian resource companies especially in mining. ISDS is said to be the framework for many upcoming and far-reaching agreements involving Europe, the US, Canada, and Pacific Rim nations from the TTIP to the CETA to the TPP. It’s essential to remember that the only complaint that can be prosecuted in a ISDS tribunal is the economic rights of a corporation — there is no legal mechanism to prosecute on human rights, ecological safety, or any other grounds. An exploration of NAFTA’s cases unearths future potential ISDS risks. Let’s honour the true vocabulary of justice, developed through decades of civil rights struggle, and have an adult conversation about what this version of trade could mean for the coming generations.

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose, they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Canada’s Trade Deficit is a Lack of Vision

If you were devising a legal plan for the management of your country’s assets, which principles would guide you?

Trade’s Influence – More powerful than national law, trade sets the course for all our futures.  Sounds quite over-puffed, I know. But stay with me for a sec. In the last few decades, trade deals have become legal frameworks for the management of a nation’s assets by the corporations of a partner country. They basically guarantee profit for transnationals in specified sectors. The rules apply far beyond goods. Treaties commonly include assets under local domain like energy, water, transit, and essential national jurisdiction like financials, crown corporations and communications. It doesn’t help that we seldom hear about ISDS lawsuits – one-sided legal courts where corporations sue nations for their policy that prevents profit. And when we do, the words are so abstract that we don’t feel their gravity. Because trade deals are written in private from so high above the grassroots, it’s hard at first to see their impact on the local community.

Canada’s High Trade Deficit — It was reported last week on Yahoo news that Canada has reached its second largest trade deficit. Not surprising I suppose as Canada is becoming a resource-based trading economy. We are creating a nation that trades away millennia-aged resources, while other countries establish value-added markets, based on exports like technology that fetch higher prices and promote longer term employment. Besides the short-sightedness of focusing prosperity on things that can be extracted once, never to be replaced to the earth, Canada in general, takes a tiny lens to trade.

Short-term Goals at the Grand Children’s Expense — Our priority has been securing short-term business investment from corporations by removing rules of conduct. In the form of national or local policy to protect public health, environment, regional economic development, rules for corporations are called performance requirements, and they are illegal in trade. Under the enforcement of Investor State or ISDS, corporations have legal grounds to sue countries for public policy that could diminish anticipated profits. Citizens cannot sue back. Canada has signed many bilateral trade and investment deals in the last decade with Columbia, South Korea, China and more. These plans are focused on the profit-making capacity of the few of this generation. For the next, what will be left?

Trade for the Generations — If the goal were the security of the generations, a trade deal would measure success differently. Imagine an ecos — Latin root of economy & ecology which means home — measure  that was scaled on how well it provided multi-generational protection of significant ecosystems while creating sustainable, value-added jobs. We would use 3-D measures, not the simplified surplus-deficit or the GDP as the basis of our multi-decade plans.  Bhutan uses the Well-Being Index as a guide for policy decisions. Trade could support the call for ethical business, if it were to bring other parties to the table. Public organizations and elders of the First Nations could provide insight. Trade would become more robust if it were to hear the voices of its greatest stakeholders — the citizens of this planet.

Understanding the generational impacts of trade treaties will help secure a global future. Only with comprehending the potency of trade law, will we be able to course correct.