Letter: Which is our biggest threat? ISIS or ISDS?

The threat that we're under from the ISDS portions of these trade agreements will have a more profound, lasting impact, writes Peter Brown

As I learn more about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA), I really wonder which is the most serious, long-term threat to our country, ISIS (aka the Islamic State) or ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement).

The ISDS is an integral part of trade agreements. It is a dispute resolution mechanism in which an investor (generally a large corporation) can pursue a financial settlement if it feels that the country it is attempting to invest in has caused it to lose profit or potentially lose profit.

For example, a Calgary-based company has filed a $15 billion NAFTA challenge against the United States after U.S. President Obama rejected the KeystoneXL pipeline. It does not matter that part of Mr. Obama’s reasoning was because of climate change policy decisions.

Another example is that Canada has been subject to 35 NAFTA claims, with 63 per cent of them challenging environmental protection or resource management measures. As the most-sued developed country in the world, Canada faces $2.6 billion in ISDS claims.

One of the scary things about these settlements is that they are not settled in normal courts of law, but by independent tribunals that for some reason have power above our courts. On the contrary, there seems to be little that governments are able to do when a foreign corporation does major damage to the environment and leaves it for the government of that country to pay for the resulting cleanup.

Because of the huge implications these settlements can result in, government policy-making first must determine if it has implications in regard to an ISDS challenge and not necessarily in what are the best interests of the country.

Do you recall that last October, then Prime Minister Harper offered the dairy farmers of Canada $4.2 billion to offset the negative impacts of the TPP? And that’s only the dairy farmers! This is not my idea of democracy. Our sovereignty is being undermined, and has been in some cases already, by these often unfair, lop-sided trade agreements that are negotiated in secret. And once signed, are in force for decades.

I believe that the threat of ISIS is serious, and needs to be addressed, but the threat that we are under from the ISDS portions of these trade agreements will have a more profound and lasting impact than will ISIS.

– Peter Brown, Grand Forks


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