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Council of Canadians protests 'NAFTA on steroids'
Leaks of draft copies of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations have sparked consternation among Nanaimo members of the Council of Canadians.
Council of Canadians Mid Island Chapter held a rally last week to protest secrecy surrounding the negotiations and information obtained from leaked draft copies drawn from those negotiations.
The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is currently being hammered out among 12 Pacific Rim countries.
The rally, lead by activist Paul Manly, in front of Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney's constituency office in north Nanaimo Aug. 29 drew about 25 people.
Manly said that the proposed trade agreement has little do with trade and is primarily an attempt to establish international corporate rights, copyright of intellectual property, patent extension, how the internet is governed, how personal information is shared across borders, and international banking and taxation rules, among other issues.
He said one of the more disturbing aspects of the agreement involves how investors should be compensated when public health and environment policies interfere with projects and profits. For instance, if a proposed mining project is halted over such concerns, the corporation paying for the project could sue the government of the country or province for loss of potential profits.
"The worst chapters in the Trans Pacific Partnership have to do with the corporate rights agreement part of it which allow corporations to sue governments for laws measures and policies that inhibit what corporations can do," Manly said. "They can sue for loss of potential profit – not real profit, but potential profit."
Manly cited a chapter in the North American Free Trade Agreement under which a Canadian company is suing the Canadian government, through its branch office in Delaware, because the Quebec government has put a moratorium on fracking in the St. Lawrence region.
"They want to know whether the technology is safe before they destroy the water table in the St. Lawrence," Manly said. "So we have a $250-million lawsuit. We got almost $5 billion worth of lawsuits on the books now under Chapter 11 in NAFTA and with the Trans Pacific Partnership with CETA – the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement – we are going to see a lot more of these law suits from corporations suing for the loss of potential profits."
Costs of all that litigation will ultimately be footed by taxpayers of nations their governments are trying to protect, he said.
The rally ended up being more of a quiet discussion among those gathered than a loud protest.
One of the key sentiments voiced by several people attending the rally was a desire for action to find ways to prevent what some fear is potential corporate hijacking of their national sovereignty.
"Talk is cheap," said one woman in the group. "We can stand around and talk at rallies, but how do we organize to actually take action?"