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Motion to protect water from NAFTA fails at trade committee (AbitibiBowater)

An NDP motion to the Standing Committee on International Trade to protect water from NAFTA, which was supported by the Bloc Quebecois, failed to pass this Tuesday because of Conservative opposition and Liberal concerns with committee procedure. The motion, brought to committee by NDP trade critic Peter Julian, would have asked Canada to “declare a reservation from Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for all measures concerning water, including water in its natural state and as a public trust and that this be reported to the House.”

Liberal trade critic Martha Hall Findlay argued the committee should wait to receive a final report based on its hearings into the AbitibiBowater NAFTA settlement before taking any action. She also said a new motion on protecting water from NAFTA may undermine the 2007 House of Commons motion urging Canada to enter into negotiations with Mexico and the United States to remove water from the scope of the agreement. Mr. Julian proposed, based on witness testimony that the AbitibiBowater settlement granted investors a proprietary right to water for economic production, that it was crucial for committee to renew its calls for a clear exemption for water.

Bloc trade critic Jean-Yves LaForest supported the motion, and added that we needed to protect all natural resources from similar proprietary claims by foreign investors. In his presentation to committee, trade lawyer and Council of Canadians board member Steven Shrybman used the tar sands as an example of where investors can now claim the exact same right to the water used to extract Alberta’s crude oil. Trade committee members received over 1,000 letters in support of protecting water from NAFTA challenges. These were based on a Council of Canadians action alert that you’re encouraged to use again now, to express your dissatisfaction with trade committee’s decision not to protect water from NAFTA.

To write to trade committee today, click here.