New Generation Trade blog

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


Dear Prime Minister

February 15, 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

Please tell me why you passed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement without listening to the concerns of people in this country. With no public hearings, Canadians were not given the chance to give voice to the hardships from a treaty that supersedes national law. From increased costs of the most expensive medicines to loss of manufacturing and processing plants, every concern was diminished in the CETA story as a small price to pay.

Where is the tally record of what makes a good trade deal? Is it the numbers of export to import? Is it the statistics of Canadian companies with potential access to European Union (EU) markets? Even if Canada didn’t have a two-to-one trade deficit with the EU, even if we didn’t just lose our biggest trading partner, England, the free trade story isn’t numbers. It’s real lives. It’s the suffering from countless closures of Canadian factories to compete in cheaper markets. It’s diminishing public infrastructure to align with global trade trends. It’s the community instability that never gets discussed when new trade deals are decided.

If we are to be a nation of sustainable prosperity, the story we need to remember is that we are the most sued country in the first world under the popularizing of corporations-suing-countries with the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. Please Prime Minister, with your care for this nation, and your long familial legacy, how can you forgo transparency on the risks from signing our most comprehensive international commitment.

Please share how it can be said that the CETA creates brotherhood among nations when corporations are granted power to sue nations in a special trade court if their profits are discriminated against. As a feminist, I can assure you there will never be a sisterhood here when the ethos of competition and secrecy permeates negotiations and the only legally penetrating structure of trade is corporations holding nations to account. From NAFTA, there’s Ethyl Corporation’s 13 million, SD Myers’ 5.6 million, Abitibi-Bowater’s 122 million, and many more brought to bear against Canada. Why is this vision good enough for Canadians? Why is trade being used as a platform for corporations to sue nations, and in a context when there’s no comparable mechanism to sue them for harm to local economies and ecosystems.

It has never been a problem that some people will benefit; I’m glad that some large Canadian businesses and farms will, and I wish more could. But why has the government not investigated those who will lose? The CETA mandate will last far longer than that of your elected tenure. In feminism, we call to the table those who are at the margins, those who are most vulnerable. It is their voices that have the most telling experience to share. No negotiator ever went on record to ask the perspective of those of the many who will be forced to pay out of pocket the billion-dollar annual increase in drug costs, the result of extended patent rights to pharmaceutical companies. No negotiator asked Canadian public workers how they might feel to be under contract by foreign private companies, no longer a part of the dignified municipal public service. No negotiator spoke of the movement of over forty city councils that requested formal exclusion from the CETA because they could see how their buy-local power would be restricted. These countless councilors, just like the 3.5 million signatory Europeans, refused to accept that foreign corporations suing for more profit is a good enough vision for the future. Why are trade deals treated as if they are something separate and irrelevant to citizens when they now contain content from every area of public life?

Who will the losers be? Will it be the municipalities who will be forced to open contracts to foreign owners? Will it be the public service workers who will answer to foreign private goals? Will it be the smaller farmers whose fields are abandoned because of too much foreign produce? Will it be indigenous people who’ve fought to protect their lands from more corporate rights, while shamefully, their true treaties are ignored?

The group who is never factored into the equation of trade balances, GDP measures and the competition of numbers that trade discussion has succumbed to, is children. It is the young people of this land, and the young people of Europe, who will inherit a reality where important decisions are no longer made by parliament elect. They will discover that decisions on health care, buy-local, food safety, education, environmental regulation and much more were decided decades earlier in 2017 by signatures of former leaders. We know that trade is no longer about goods, those have flown across the planet up and down, side to side, endlessly. Now trade is about services and how we spend public monies on everything. I want to know why this government thinks that a deal that can only be legally binding to corporate outcomes is good enough for citizens and more importantly, for the children that will inherit this already unstable world.

Forgive the forward voice of this letter. I am aware of the directness of tone. This is a result, not of a lack of understanding for the great responsibility of your role, but an intonation towards the weight upon the generations coming when the CETA, and other trade deals written in this comprehensive style, restrict the power they’ll have to make decisions to protect their lives. I can only imagine the kind of frustration they will face, when they find they cannot mobilize the full authority of their regulatory power, and further be forced to battle untold numbers in corporate lawsuits, because trade deals of this era were short-sited and biased towards the largest corporations in the world. This they will endure in a world of unknown environmental, social and political complexity. It’s for them I write. It’s for them I pray.


Jennifer Chesnut


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?

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

The Deadly Tango of Trade and Climate Change

ISDS suppresses buy-local and supports climate change.

Sending more stuff around the globe! The aim of global free trade is to send evermore objects and services around the globe. Free trade suppresses local exchange by its philosophy and now, with the rise of investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), also by its law. Can we afford such unbalanced economics in a world beginning to witness the horrors of climate change?

Trade-ables are community assets! New generation trade deals are far more radical than most realize because of their content and how they are enforced. The majority of tariffs for goods were dropped by the nineties, and so trade industry specialists sought new markets. Trade-ables now are public assets like energy and water. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a first in this new trade frame, is one part energy treaty. For example, NAFTA article 605 requires Canada to export energy to the US.

Transnational Corporations hold serious power in trade! NAFTA popularized a way to hold nations to account for a corporation’s profits — Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). ISDS gives trade legal options for corporations to sue countries or communities to make more money in their sector, even from practices that may contribute to climate change, while sometimes making grassroots incentives illegal. ISDS has no capacity to reprimand corporate practices because it does not jury a nation’s complaints, only a business’!

Cases of Energy Corporations Suing Countries! The first NAFTA-case was won in 1997 by a company in the gasoline industry. Ethyl Corporation won the right to continue using gasoline that contained additives that Canada banned because studies showed them as potential carcinogens. Using the National Treatment clause in ISDS, Ethyl won 13 million from Canadians for their right to be treated like any other national interest. The fancy trade law term in ISDS is National Treatment. Canada was stuck with the additives.

What are NAFTA’s risks now as we move into the potential CETA– TTIP era? The world has moved on from NAFTA to CETA–TTIP, TTP! Does NAFTA still have impacts twenty-plus years after implementation? You bet your bottom dollar, and your communities. Quebec presently has a moratorium on fracking in the St. Lawrence region to study potential risks to water supply. Lone Pine Corporation launched a complaint against Canada under NAFTA. Lone Pine’s complaint is being heard in private trade courts, and whatever is decided there, like all ISDS cases, will supersede national and regional law. NAFTA’s foundation will shape the relationship and rules of the new CETA — TTIP with the EU. Trade rules, legally-binding, build on one another!

Dropping rules in Newfoundland, Labrador and beyond to help out corporations! On Friday March 6th, it was reported in the Globe and Mail that Canada was ordered to pay ExxonMobil and Murphy Oil 17.3 million because of policy for regional economic development in struggling East coast communities. Newfoundland and Labrador, still struggling from unrecovered cod fisheries, told the companies to pay into local Research and Development (R&D) in exchange for use of oil. The companies sued and Canada lost in the trade courts.

What does our future under the NAFTA–CETA–TTIP–TPP trade chain look like? Our future relies on humanity creating a much better balance of the environment and business in global economic policy. It’s time to try some new moves. Bring the public back to the dance of country-to-country economic affairs. Free trade treaties set the quality of life for all generations into the future, and will shape the outcome of climate security. I know, innocuous sounding policy. Who knew? A future case, reported in May 2014 in The Globe and Mail, could be launched under NAFTA for the Keystone Pipeline. TransCanada Corporation could ISDS-sue the US for its resistance to Alberta bitumen oil.

Do North Americans, known for contributing a hefty share of CO2, not have a responsibility to secure trade that puts the concerns of communities first? Or shall we continue to spend taxpayers’ money on legal fees and fines from corporate trade-suits against our laws.


Pulling a Canada

What’s the big idea behind corporations suing Canadians?

In the last couple years I came across a phrase in trade talk being whispered behind our backs. “Pulling a Canada.” Peculiar. Nothing like the Canadian self-image of champion – in hockey, coffee and geographic beauty. Reading the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) January 2015 report, I think I understand what the chiding is about.

The lawsuits. Did you know that through trade agreements countries are being sued for having policies that diminish the profits of corporations? Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is what this beast is called. In secret trade courts a corporation sues to have a policy removed. Corporations are given special rights beyond citizens to use trade constructs such as Most Favoured Nation or National Treatment (see Trade Justice Dictionary) any time they feel anticipated profits may be shrunk by health, labour, environmental or local laws. There is no mechanism for countries to sue back. Trade-legal outcomes supersede national laws and force changes in policy or risk further payment of hefty fines. Taxpayer money pays them out. ISDS – with its easily forgettable acronym sounds irrelevant. Of course, it isn’t. It’s as intimate a thing as the rules you set in your household and the budget you draft in your bank. Its influence enormous from the wide lens though subtle to see at first. The impact felt not only by your family. Multiply it by the wallets of all the families in your country. That’s the power of a trade deal.

From environmental protections to health care costs, Canadians have been charged with more lawsuits than any other developed nation. The CCPA report summarizes so far under NAFTA, Canada has been the target of 45% of NAFTA’s investor state lawsuits within the three signatory nations. Here is the score: Canada — 35, Mexico — 22, and the US — 20. In terms of payment, the US has not yet lost a case. Canada has lost six paying out 170 million so far. Mexico has paid for five at a cost of 210 million.

Canada has paid Investor State fines to gasoline, paper, and oil companies but we have never had so many transnational companies suing us as we do right now. If all the present cases were to pass in trade courts, Canadian taxpayers would have to pay out over six billion dollars according to the CCPA report.

We could become the biggest loser on the globe.


The rules of the game are clearly wrong. It’s absurd to defend hard-earned laws against the risk they pose to profits of large corporations hosted in the lands of our trading partners. (The people who work diligently day to day in the ground offices of these corporations are neither told nor consulted.) With this emerging international system that behaves like its the law, we are changing the very standards of our lives far into the future.

Is it fair to talk about trade as a game? If we do, it might be appropriate to call it Russian Roulette with our children’s futures. Those with the biggest guns, tend to win. With serious issues facing Canadians and our brothers and sisters across this globe, it’s time to look deeply at what our country is doing with the collective budgets of all our houses. It’s time to ask — who is the winner under this set of rules?