Trudeau must protect water in upcoming NAFTA renegotiation: report

Media Release
May 4, 2017

Trade agreements threaten water

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strategy of avoiding confrontation with U.S. President Trump puts water on both sides of the border in peril, says Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, in a new report titled Water For Sale: How Free Trade And Investment Agreements Threaten Environmental Protection Of Water And Promote The Commodification Of The World’s Water.

With NAFTA, the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) facing uncertain futures, Water for Sale examines the trade threats to global water supplies, which have so far been largely ignored.

“NAFTA rules that already trump domestic water protections could be made far worse with the upcoming renegotiation of the deal,” says Barlow. “Trump is attacking water protections in the U.S., locking in deregulation in ways that would make it very hard for future presidents to undo. Trudeau is doing the same here by not restoring the Navigable Waters Protection Act, despite his promise to do so. These realities, combined with Trump and Trudeau’s refusal to remove Chapter 11 from NAFTA, put water protection in the crosshairs.”

The World Health Organization recently issued a dire warning that 2 billion people are drinking contaminated water. Water for Sale highlights how this crisis could be made even worse if deals like NAFTA, CETA, the TPP and the free trade model as a whole, aren’t abandoned once and for all.

“Modern free trade and investment agreements undermine laws and regulations to protect water. To protect water in international trade dealings, water must be removed in all these categories from all trade and investment agreements,” says Barlow. “The practice and privilege of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) must end. People and their governments must be given the right to restrict trade from places or in conditions where water and local communities have been harmed. Foreign investors must return to using the domestic courts of the countries in which they are operating and with whom they have a dispute. The political moment to have this debate has arrived.”

Water for Sale highlights three ways that free trade deals endanger water: commodifying water as a tradeable “good”; treating water as a “service”, which promotes the privatization of water services; and treating water as an “investment”, subject to the clauses in these agreements that let corporations challenge water protection laws.

“The backlash against ISDS provisions in the new generation of trade and investment agreements is growing, and not just among civil society,” says Barlow. “Many countries, including South Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Malaysia and Australia, have either rejected ISDS outright or have expressed serious reservations about it. Trudeau should take advantage of the NAFTA renegotiations and take Chapter 11 out of the agreement, as well as taking all necessary measures to protect water in any new deal.”

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For more information or to arrange interviews:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, dpenner@canadians.org. Twitter: @CouncilOfCDNs