Canada’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.
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 2 ) summarizes 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.
The 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) .