New Generation Trade blog

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


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

http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/blog/2015/mar/25/if-you-want-know-why-ttip-would-be-nightmare-look-what-just-happened-canada

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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.

 


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Trade with the New Generations in Mind

I am fascinated by new generation trade pacts, described as the transfer of power from people to transnational corporations.* I find the topic compelling in a repelling kind of way. Despite the discomfort, studying trade offers essential understanding for all of us interested in preserving what is left of natural life and community infrastructure across the globe.

In the late nineties, my professors startled me with the news that “new generation” trade deals give large corporations the opportunity to manage the public’s assets, and sue countries when public laws decrease corporate profits. Should we not ask for more in our global policy?

What if the best in us was put forward for their composition. What if the wisest elder, with a great sense of humour, soft heart, and economic knowledge sat at the table to negotiate? Why not seek robust economy based in real jobs and environmental security? Such global-impact regulations should be approached with loving-kindness and not use as their foundational indicator of success in a relationship between two nations the gross domestic product (GDP). In trade, there is so much more at stake than that. For no child in the Global North will be secure in an insecure world and no child in the Global South, with all its restriction of access to clean water and basic human rights, will be fully nourished. We could take less in the North in exchange for greater security.

We can do better than the new international law creating an Investor state — a trade legal mechanism that permits corporations to sue nations if their profits decrease over the use of public laws. As a North American, the place of birth of the “New Generation” deal, I feel a responsibility to be part of the dialogue to create authentic and fair trade. I am curious about global law after the new generation pact and what else is possible!

People are awakening to speak what is truly valuable. When I think of the people in my city I see so many whose primary desire is security for families, friends and community. This is a reason to learn about trade pacts. This blog is a space for exploring New Generation trade from a different perspective, one that takes a generational lens and is focused on what we are offering children and their children to come.

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*trade pact description from Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians