NAFTA renegotiations a joke? Maybe…

It really is time to get serious with what our ex-Trade Minister and now Foreign Minister has and is still doing about our investment agreements, misnamed Free Trade Agreements.

Right from the start, Ms. Freeland ignored all requests and pleas not to sign on with the TPP, or CETA with their crippling investor-state profits protection clauses.  She ignored all those and went ahead and signed both of them with those clauses in place.

Now she, not the International Trade Minister, is negotiating the revamping of NAFTA, which is an offshoot of the infamous FTA between a had been actor and a drunk.   This is where the investor-state clause came into play and has in effect greatly limited our ability to make and uphold the laws in Canada which will serve Canada and the Canadian people rather than foreign (and now domestic) corporations and their perceived profit losses if they run afoul of our laws.

 From the Toronto Star:

As reported by TONDA MACCHARLESOttawa Bureau reporter

Wed., Aug. 16, 2017

“Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Wednesday, “We believe that just as good fences make good neighbours, a good dispute settlement mechanism makes good trading partners.”

 It is comments like this that make me realise we have someone negotiating for us who has no idea what the difference is between a Trade Agreement and an Investment Agreement.   Chapter 11 of NAFTA is nothing to do with trade but everything to do with investments and perceived profit loss from those investments which run contrary to Canadian laws. 

 Further down in the article there is this about the $205 million paid out by Canadian taxpayers so far:

“….and most of that came when a panel awarded $130 million in damages in one case: AbitibiBowater’s $500 million claim against the Newfoundland government which expropriated its water and timber rights and hydroelectric assets in the province after the company closed its last mill in that province and laid off 800 workers…..”

I added the bold and explain why:

It should be pointed out that those water and timber rights were granted to Abitibi in early 1900 provided that they had a working mill employing Canadians. When that mill was closed and the Canadians were laid off their claim on those water and timber rights ended. How can you expropriate something which returns to you by default anyway? This claim by Abitibi was not presented before a NAFTA tribunal because Stephen Harper quietly paid them $130 million of our money to “go away”. That this was one of his first acts and that it exceeded the total cost of the “sponsorship” scandal (which, with the connivance of the RCMP, allowed him into power) by some 15 million dollars is an indication of the contempt Harper had for Canada and Canadians.

This is all very pathetic, but bear in mind that there is a claim for $250 million from a Canadian Company – yes you read that correctly – Lone Pine Power of Calgary, Alberta (incorporated in Delaware, USA) had their proposal to drill and frack the St Lawrence River in Quebec turned down because a proper environmental study had not been conducted by Quebec or the Federal Government.

This information is readily available on the Government of Canadian Website:

http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/disp-diff/gov.aspx?lang=eng

We can also expect a claim from Enbridge (also incorporated in Delaware) for the rejection of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, and most likely Kinder Morgan if BC stands by its citizens and the courts overrule Trudeau and refuse to allow this monstrosity to be constructed.

Chapter 19 of NAFTA is to do with dumping etc., and this is where we are constantly under attack for our softwood lumber.   I do not understand this at all.  If the Americans want to pay more for our lumber let them, and if they do not want to pay our price do not supply them.  Can it be simpler than that?    American protectionism is at play here again and the fact is that they do not have enough home-grown lumber to supply their own needs so they would be forced to get the extra from somewhere. Insisting on Canadian producers charging more through countervailing duties makes little sense to me.

Since I wrote the above I found a House of Commons Trade Committee hearing at which Ms. Freeland appeared before the NAFTA negotiations started this summer and frankly I was more puzzled, annoyed and concerned than ever.  The Trade Minister was nowhere to be seen so he is, I suppose, just male window dressing to her Cruella De Vil. 

The Liberal and Conservative MPs offered questions that were pure pablum, (it did not seem to matter that she waffled so much and didn’t answer those pablumatic questions anyway) leaving it to Tracey Ramsay of the NDP to ask about the investor dispute mechanism to which the reply was just as it is in CETA; that is to say nothing changes. There was some talk of there being a European court to deal with CETA disputes, so an undefined but new European court with no clear jurisprudence or base of operation would have decided on Canadian law?  Yeah right, Freeland, Right!   As it reads now same old same old tribunal of corporate lawyers with no actual court of any kind of law in sight to decide on the value of our laws against perecived corporate profit loss.

After a question about Quebec electricity charges and supply to New England states and New York was neatly sidestepped  Ms. Ramsay asked about the percentages of energy production not being able to be reduced even in an emergency.

From NAFTA

Article 605: Other Export Measures

Subject to Annex 605, a Party may adopt or maintain a restriction otherwise justified under Articles XI:2(a) or XX(g), (i) or (j) of the GATT with respect to the export of an energy or basic petrochemical good to the territory of another Party, only if:

 

  1. the restriction does not reduce the proportion of the total export shipments of the specific energy or basic petrochemical good made available to that other Party relative to the total supply of that good of the Party maintaining the restriction as compared to the proportion prevailing in the most recent 36month period for which data are available prior to the imposition of the measure, or in such other representative period on which the Parties may agree;

So the real answer to that Quebec Hydro question should have been clear.  Not only can the supply not be lessened, but lack of payment for that hydro cannot be the reason for stopping the supply.  Ask BC, they have not been paid by California for about 20 years but are stuck with the supply, and the people of BC are paying for this.

Once again here is Freeland wanting to keep this when for nearly two years she has not been able to come to an agreement about our softwood dispute, so I can be forgiven if I state that I do not trust her at all, anyway why is she in charge of this not Champagne our actual trade minister?   Maybe it’s to keep her hatred of Russia under control…….

Since consultation have been held about NAFTA with Universities, think tanks, Chambers of Commerce and Labour and Corporations it is clear to whom Freeland feels responsible. “We are listening to Canadians” is the Liberal war cry and I know I have written to her about 19 times now and have not received any response at all.   It is abundantly clear to me that the Canadian people do not figure in her mind at all, and whatever the international corporations want she will do her very best to give them at our expense.

 “Sunny Days” Trudeau supports her completely and as we have learned those sunny days and sunny ways never did apply to those Canadians who voted for him but do to international corporations which so far do not vote.    Wonder when that will change?

Jeremy

Mr. Michael Marsh:

    I guess the argument is that democracy is not just about majorities; it’s about minorities. It’s about blending minorities to make political decisions, and that’s quite difficult if the minorities are not represented.

For the minorities read Canadian people……

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