For years, we have been told that globalization and free trade are inevitable, and that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would bring jobs and prosperity to Canadians. While NAFTA has been a bonanza for big corporations and private investors, it has been bad news for the rest of us — and for the public good. Our resources and the environment are under threat. Our public services such as health care are being cut and privatized. Our jobs and the promise of a living wage are being steadily eroded. Free trade agreements like NAFTA represent a charter of rights for large corporations and they clearly undermine the ability of countries and citizens to govern themselves. On the global stage, the Canadian government has become an important ally to the United States in pushing the flawed free trade model on unwilling countries around the world. But we believe that a better Canada, and a better world, is possible.
The top 5 reasons to renegotiate NAFTA are:
NAFTA Entrenches Corporate Power
Under NAFTA, foreign corporations use Chapter 11 to challenge Canadian environmental laws, municipal land-use controls, water protection measures, the activities of Canada Post, and even the decisions of judges and juries. As Public Citizen in the US points out, “the Loewen Group is using NAFTA’s investor protections to, in effect, “reverse” a Mississippi jury’s ruling in favor of a small funeral home operator who sued the conglomerate for breech of contract. While no Canadian citizen or corporation could bring forward these challenges, NAFTA grants corporations of member countries the right to challenge any federal rule or law that they perceive as a barrier to their ability to make a profit. The result is millions of tax dollars being spent to either fight or settle with these corporations. Some critics have called for forceful retaliations, such as punitive tarrifs, against the U.S., while others have suggested that we should get out of NAFTA – before it’s too late. At the very least, it’s time to remove NAFTA’s Chapter 11 provisions.
NAFTA Endangers Our Water
Under NAFTA, Canadian water is denied as a “service” and an “investment”. The agreement’s so-called water exemption is inadequate. After British Columbia banned bulk exports of lake and river water, the California-based Sun Belt Corporation launched a Chapter 11 challenge, seeking $10 billion in damages. The case is still outstanding, and has profound implications for the future of Canada’s water. Explicit removal of water from the provisions of NAFTA is the only way that water will be truly protected from bulk export and commodification.
NAFTA Drains Our Energy
Under NAFTA, Canada now exports 70 per cent of the oil and 61 per cent of the natural gas we produce each year to the United States, but has to rely heavily on imported oil from off shore. NAFTA prevents us from selling our energy resources at rates lower than we sell them in the U.S. We also can’t ever cut back on the proportion of energy we produce and sell to the United States, even in times when our country runs short. Removing NAFTA’s “proportional sharing” provisions and adopting a “made in Canada” energy strategy that puts security of the environment first would set Canada on a path to meet its Kyoto targets and serve Canadians’ energy needs first.
NAFTA Threatens Public Health Care
Under NAFTA, Canada’s health care system is threatened with privatization by providing U.S. health consortiums and HMOs with “national treatment” rights to compete for health care services. The World Bank estimates that global health expenditures exceed $4 trillion every year. The most promising sources of future profits are lucrative programs like Canada’s, which are still being delivered on a not-for-profit basis. NAFTA’s exemption for health care, which has largely kept large corporations out of Canada, applies only to a fully public system. Once we privatize even some health care services, NAFTA could force Canada to give equal treatment to U.S. companies competing for patients with our public system.
NAFTA Sustains Unfair Trade
Under NAFTA, softwood lumber highlighted how free trade is a bad deal for Canada, working families, our environment and our sovereignty. But in the aftermath of the softwood lumber decision, even former supporters of free trade are arguing that NAFTA isn’t working for Canada. We want a trade system that protects our social safety net, jobs and natural resources. Yet, even talking about a better, fairer model of trade has been hampered by our emphasis on the NAFTA model of trade. Our business and political elites are pushing for deeper ties with the U.S., and would see Canada privatize health care, join common security projects, give up sovereignty over our natural resources and harmonize our food and health policies with lower U.S. standards. We want a trade policy that protects our democracy, social services, natural resources and way of life.