Shannyn Moore: NAFTA gives corporations power to challenge nations

By SHANNYN MOORENovember 9, 2013 

I hear a lot of crazy theories. Some emails and calls to my radio show are worrisome, some are laughable. This week I heard from a man who thought Tampons were covered by Obamacare because of their ability hypnotize women into supporting Democrats. Really. Every theory from One World Order to the Bilderberg Group, FEMA camps and HAARP seems to make its way to my in-box.

During the Clinton years, it was the "murder" of Vince Foster. I thought the blue dress incident was a pathetic witch hunt. I know, I know, it "wasn't about sex -- he lied!" (Whatever. People lie all the time about sex, either to get it or about it. It's human nature.) What Clinton should have been roasted for he didn't do alone: NAFTA, GATT and the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which crippled the media that might have reported on the realities of policy.

NAFTA conspiracy nuts should be having a field day right now. The "New World Order" is not a single world government, it's the ability of corporations to bulldoze national laws that get in the way of profits.

For the record, I'm not typing this from a cabin deep in the woods on some no-name creek. (I kind of wish I were, but anyway.) No, instead I've been sucked down a rabbit hole due to the brilliant reporting of Cole Stangler, who writes for the labor publication In These Times.

In September, an energy company based in Delaware filed a $250 million suit against the Canadian government. Why? Because the company, Lone Pine, wants to frack in Quebec's St. Lawrence River but can't because the Canadian government has banned fracking in that area -- specifically the bed of the river.

As someone who wants to see certain precious areas of Alaska protected from rape, pillage and plunder development, this story is blood chilling. What kind of assaults will Alaskans face when it comes to saving our salmon?

Oh, I'm sure you think I'm ringing the panic bell. Canadian courts just have to throw it out of court, right? I mean, seriously, they have a law and some whiney company is suing them over it. Why do they even need to hear it?

That's the hitch. Thanks, NAFTA. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the American-based corporation can sue, in international court, the clearly no-longer-sovereign Canada. These tribunal courts are not public. What could go wrong? Under "free trade," corporations trump countries. I guess that's why companies now have their own flags.

Tin foil hat jokes aside, this is happening.

Lone Pine has filed for bankruptcy in Canada and the U.S. The company claims that because it can't frack a river, its finances are shaky. That might make those folks who live on the St. Lawrence River wonder if Lone Pine could cover damages that might occur if it wins its "By God and By NAFTA" lawsuit.

This isn't the first time this issue has come up under trade agreements. Under CAFTA, mining company Pac Rim filed against El Salvador for refusing to issue gold mining permits to the company. El Salvador says it's running out of clean water for its citizens and mining doesn't help that. Pac Rim says it wants $315 million. The country and the company are in arbitration.

The Obama Administration is working now on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. (Count on that one to affect Alaska.) Also being written is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which includes the European Union. The agreements haven't been made public, but Sens. Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch want to "fast-track" them.

The idea of a corporation being able to challenge, in a secret court, a country's efforts to protect its natural resources has me paying way closer attention than I once did to NAFTA.

We no longer govern ourselves according to our own values. Instead we live in a vast, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichsmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, yen and yuan.

We answer to IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the sovereigns of the world today.

Shannyn Moore can be heard weeknights from 6 to 9 p.m. on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio.

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