“Free trade, we’re told, is the secret to global prosperity. But what trade pacts are really all about is redesigning the international economy in a way that transfers significant new powers to corporations.

It has traditionally been recognized that there should be limits on corporate power, and that in a democracy, power should ultimately rest with the people. But that democratic notion has been discarded by those designing the new trade deals.

Consider the case of Methanex. It’s a Canadian company that produces a gasoline additive considered a health hazard in California. Santa Monica had to shut down most of its wells after some of the Methanex additive leeched into the local water supply. After that, California imposed a ban on the additive. One would think that Methanex would at least apologize for the incident, and in the old days that’s probably what would have happened. But under NAFTA, Methanex has a whole new set of legal rights that puts it in the drivers seat. So, Methanex has launched a massive lawsuit, suing the U.S. for almost a billion dollars for financial losses resulting from California’s ban.

Such a lawsuit would be considered a joke in Canadian court, but that’s where the magic of NAFTA comes in. The corporation gets to take its case to a private tribunal, operating in secret under the auspices of NAFTA. This private tribunal has the power to make binding decisions. What NAFTA does is single out corporate profit-making AS A RIGHT that has its own international legal protections, and a private tribunal system to enforce them. No other set of rights- environmental, social, labor, even human rights-has been accorded the same protection in international law. When a corporation thinks its rights have been violated, no matter how ridiculous the claim, it is permitted to sue under NAFTA, and the tribunal can force the government to pay the corporation huge sums of money.

Pundits suggest that governments are becoming powerless due to mysterious forces operating out there in the global economy, well beyond our control. Here’s another possibility: governments and citizens are losing power these days simply because we keep signing trade deals that render us powerless. If we stopped signing these trade deals, governments might retain enough power to do things like defend the public interest.”

-excerpted from “Trade Bait”
by Linda McQuaigMood: hungry
Music: MC Chris – Ten Year Old