Face it, folks, it’s a corporate coup

Published on January 19, 2016

Russell Wangersky’s column (“Worth the paper it’s printed on?” Jan. 5) asks about the Resolute NAFTA challenge: “how much can international trade agreements be used to tie the hands of provincial governments looking to come to the aid of their constituents? Does a duly elected government get to say how it can properly spend money, or does that decision rest in the hands of trade agreement arbitration panels? Does that mean that there is one set of standards for companies that operate solely within their own nation, while there are better rules to protect the interests of multinationals?”

The author seems naive and uninformed.

Is the columnist still distracted enough to believe NAFTA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are trade deals and not primarily corporate rights agreements? The TPP, for example, has 29 chapters on trade; only a handful deal with trade, the rest enshrine corporate rights to challenge national governments as equals in closed door tribunals before a panel of corporate lawyers who work for transnationals in their day jobs.

And, by the way, there is no appeal of tribunal decisions. Even if they make perverse decisions not supported by the facts or the NAFTA rules, the decision stands. This circumvents the authority of federal and provincial governments, regulators and most disturbing, Canadian courts.

The NAFTA tribunal decision on the proposed Whites Point quarry and marine terminal on Digby Neck, N.S., illustrates this. I intervened in the panel hearings and was happy that, for once, the unanimous concerns of a community, and a proponent so arrogant that they refused to produce the evidence the panel requested for a year prior to the hearings, resulted in a rejection of the proposal. Part of the decision quoted wording from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) that the proposal violated “core community values.” As a longtime practitioner of environmental assessments, I felt that finally CEAA had protected the interests of a community in a very clear case.

Bilcon, the proponent, appealed to the NAFTA tribunal and was awarded damages. The “tribunal” upbraided the panel chair and claimed incorrectly that he erred in law. When perverse decisions that bypass Canadians courts using closed door tribunals are rendered, it sends a message to regulators and governments alike. NAFTA (and the new trade deals) trump national law and the deck is stacked. Does the author not understand that this usurps sovereignty?

These new deals (CETA, TPP) will for generations hinder necessary international climate change agreements and will lower labour and environmental standards. If the author of the column is informed and honest with himself and his readers, he should admit this is a corporate coup we are living through.

Simply put, this is the new global fascism. The results, a cynical victimizing of black and brown and Muslim refugees escaping war and the results of globalization, are already manifest in Europe and North America. Why ask meaningless uninformed questions when the issues demand so much more?

 

Bruno Marcocchio

Sydney, N.S.