New voices calling for climate change protections in NAFTA 2.0 – updated on May 7

NAFTA-2-0-People-or-Polluters-coverCanada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, arrived in Washington on May 7 for final “make or break” talks about NAFTA, according to a CBC report.  Below, some reports reflecting concerns from Canada’s labour and climate change communities.

On April 17, the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians, and Greenpeace Mexico released a new report, NAFTA 2.0: For People Or Polluters? A Climate Denier’s Trade Deal versus a Clean Energy Economy.   In this report, economists from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico document the obstacles to climate progress in the current North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, and propose climate, labour, and human rights protections  in line with the Paris Accord.  Canadian contributor Gordon Laxer, founder of the Parkland Institute, states:  “NAFTA’s little-known ‘proportionality’ rule locks Canada into perpetual production of climate-polluting tar sands oil and fracked gas, while giving corporate polluters a permanent green light to build tar sands oil pipelines to the U.S.” The NAFTA 2.0 report urges elimination of the proportionality rule, elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals under Chapter 11,  and elimination of  rules regarding regulatory cooperation that could be used to delay, weaken, or halt new climate policies, or to pressure Canada and Mexico to adopt the weaker climate standards favoured by the Trump administration.  NAFTA 2.0: For People or Polluters?  was written and researched by Dr. Frank Ackerman (Synapse Energy Economics, U.S.),  Dr. Alejandro Álvarez Béjar (Professor, National Autonomous University of Mexico), Dr. Gordon Laxer,  (Founding Director, Parkland Institute, University of Alberta, Canada), and Ben Beachy (Director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, U.S.). A summary appears in a Sierra Club Blog.

FreelandChrystia

Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs

 

On May 2, Canada’s labour, climate, and social justice communities  sent a joint  Open Letter  to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stating their  twelve shared principles and values on very specific NAFTA issues. They conclude: “ An alternative model of trade must be rooted in principles of equity, the primacy of human rights — including the rights of Indigenous peoples, women and girls, workers, migrants, farmers, and communities — and social and ecological justice. Furthermore, if Canada wishes to be an international champion of action on climate change, its trade policy must be compatible with its climate objectives.”  “Chrystia Freeland urged to be a climate champion at NAFTA talks” (National Observer, May 2summarizes the letter and quotes from an interview on the issue with Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).   The CLC was one of 8 labour unions and 47  organizations to sign the Open Letter.  The others include Canadian Union of Public Employees, CWA-Canada, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Public Service Alliance of Canada, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, United Steelworkers, and Unifor amongst unions;  Climate Action Network-Canada, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Citizens Climate Lobby Canada, Oxfam Canada, and other social justice groups.

NAFTA Getting it right Council of CanadiansThe Council of Canadians have maintained a long-standing campaign against NAFTA, especially the ISDS provisions.  Their website on the issue is here; their own guide to the NAFTA Negotiations, Getting it Right:  A People’s Guide to re-negotiating NAFTA   was published in October 2017 and agrees with the new Sierra Club report in most respects, including elimination of the ISDS, and incorporation of workers’ rights.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis acts as the administrative lead  in the Trade and Investment Research Project (TIRP), a coalition of NGO and labour unions. CCPA published Canada’s Track Record Under NAFTA Chapter 11  (January 2018) which tracks the cases and penalties Canada has paid under the existing  ISDS provisions, and Renegotiating NAFTA: CCPA submission to Global Affairs Canada on the renegotiation and modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (July 2017).

The International Institute for Sustainable Development has published  Can Investor-State Dispute Settlement Be Good for the Environment?  which reviews the European Energy Charter Treaty as well as NAFTA; Environmental and Public Interest Considerations in NAFTA Renegotiation (November 2017); and A Wish List for an Environmentally friendly NAFTA  (April 2018) .

 

Analysis of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada was announced as a “done deal” in Ottawa on September 26, despite the fact that the text had never been made public till that time.

The agreement abolishes almost all tariffs and reduces many non-tariff barriers, but most controversial is the chapter on investment protection, which includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions. The ISDS mechanism gives foreign corporations the ability to sue Canada or a province, if the companies allege that domestic health or environmental policies and regulations interfere with their right to make a profit.

The Council of Canadians has been a vocal opponent of CETA because of these ISDS provisions and released a new book in November. Trading away Democracy (co-published by a number of other organizations, including Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Union of Public Employees, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Friends of the Earth Europe).
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva has published a detailed review which includes a summary of the Environment and Labour chapters of the CETA . The article points out a departure from past trade agreements such as NAFTA: disputes under the Environment or Labour chapters cannot be initiated by civil society, but only by a government- to -government mechanism specifically defined in each chapter. See “Unpacking the EU Canada Free Trade Deal” in Bridges (Nov. 3).

Also see the Government of Canada website relating to CETA, including a link to the text of the agreement (English version / French version).