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article imageOp-Ed: Trudeau needs to change NAFTA to protect Canadian water

By Ken Hanly     May 5, 2017 in Environment
Maude Barlow, National Chair of the Council of Canadians, criticizes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for avoiding any confrontation with US President Trump on the issue of water and NAFTA.
Barlow has just issued a report called: Water For Sale: How Free Trade And Investment Agreements Threaten Environmental Protection Of Water And Promote The Commodification Of The World’s Water. The report looks at the trade threats posed to global water supplies by different trade agreements including NAFTA. Barlow notes:“NAFTA rules that already trump domestic water protections could be made far worse with the upcoming renegotiation of the deal. 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(WHO) recently issued a dire warning that almost 2 billion people are drinking water contaminated with faeces. The contamination puts people at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio according to Maria Neira who heads WHO`s public health department. She added: "Contaminated drinking-water is estimated to cause more than 500,000 diarrhoeal deaths each year and is a major factor in several neglected tropical diseases, including intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma," While on average countries had increased funding for improving access to safe water and sanitation, still 80 percent said that they still did not have enough financing to reach nationally-set targets.
Modern trade free trade and investment agreements contain sections that undermine laws and regulations that protect water. Water must be removed às a commodity to be traded in all such agreements to protect it, Barlow argues that that the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) must be removed from NAFTA and other trade agreements. ``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.” However, Trudeau does not even seem to be bringing the matter up. The mainstream media is unlikely to discuss the matter either,
In trade deals, corporations would like to see water considered to be a commodity to be traded. It can also be treated as a service allowing for privatization of services that provide water. It is also treated as an investment. All of these descriptions allow water to be subject to clauses in an agreement that challenge water protection laws. Barlow argues that water should specifically be excluded from such provisions.
Wikipedia describes the ISDS provisions as follows: Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment court system (ICS) is a system through which individual companies can sue countries for alleged discriminatory practices. The practice was made widely known through the Philip Morris v. Uruguay case, where the tobacco company Philip Morris sued Uruguay after having enacted strict laws aimed at promoting public health.
ISDS has been criticized because the United States has never lost any of its ISDS cases, and that the system is biased to favor American companies and American trade over other Western countries, and Western countries over the rest of the world. Chapter 11 of NAFTA contains ISDS provisions,
The provisions allow one NAFTA party in Canada, US, or Mexico) to bring charges directly against the government of another NAFTA party before an international tribunal avoiding local courts. There is no other situation in international law where private parties are able to sue a state without showing the domestic courts are not independent or reliable, A sample of a case brought against Canada is S.D.. Myers versus Canada that the company won: S.D. Myers v. Canada Between 1995 and 1997 the Canadian government banned the export of toxic PCB waste, in order to comply with its obligations under the Basel Convention, of which the United States is not a party. Waste treatment company S.D. Myers then sued the Canadian government under NAFTA Chapter 11 for $20 million in damages. The claim was upheld by a NAFTA Tribunal in 2000.
The renegotiation should take place through a transparent process with all stakeholders involved not just corporations and politicians. Consultation with the public on the issues is also important. Another important part of the NAFTA agreement that needs to be deleted is the proportionality clause as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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