In many countries, there is a debate over how much power we give to corporations. And it is boosting populist right-wing parties and left-wing parties that are against trade. In Europe, many of the right-wing parties are opposing free trade agreements. At the same time, from the left of the spectrum, voices such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are also targeting free trade.
Having toured Europe and met with both politicians and grassroots groups, I can tell you that a court system is not going to placate European activists or many parliamentarians. Some are already calling it a PR stunt that does nothing but put a Good Housekeeping seal of approval on an already flawed system.
If Keystone XL were built, it would produce 110 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, which is incompatible with effective U.S. action to cut climate pollution. Ultimately, the loser isn't the big bad Americans; it's our environment, and the right of governments to protect it for their citizens.
When our democracies try to act on climate, trade agreements get in the way. For over 20 years, we have been fighting ISDS, the investor state dispute settlement clause in Chapter 11 of NAFTA, which allows companies to sue states over their decisions. It is a favourite tool of energy and mining companies.
I cannot help thinking that, while countries rush to sign trade deals such as CETA and the new TransPacific Partnership, they cannot seem to get a binding climate change agreement. Very little at the UN or in previous climate conferences has been binding. CETA and TPP are both major trade deals that must be fought.
I learned the news from internet sites -- the Bataclan was not very far from me. I know that spot. I discovered that one of the shootings was on Charonne Street. I looked up the address: 92 rue de Charonne, la Belle Équipe restaurant. My address: 125 rue de Charonne. Brent ordered me not to go outside.
Countries pledging to take serious action on climate change are also party to, or are aggressively negotiating, trade and investment deals that contain a mechanism that gives large corporations the right to challenge any changes to the current rules under which they operate -- be they environmental, health or human rights -- that negatively affect corporations' bottom line. ISDS essentially grants corporations equal status to governments in these negotiations and privatizes the dispute settlement system between nations.
Trade negotiations are growing in importance as developed and developing countries alike increasingly realize that protectionism is not a path to prosperity. Federalism poses challenges for our trade negotiations that are exacerbated by elections at both levels of government in Canada, and among our trading partners. The electoral clock is also ticking on Japanese Diet elections next summer and on U.S. presidential and congressional elections next fall. If the machinery of trade talks ground to a halt every time an election approached, there would be no trade agreements at all -- which is, perhaps, what some people desire.
We Canadians are writing to you, the Socialists, New European Left, and Greens, because you have the power to stop these dangerous trade deals. With this type of trade agreement, we have a choice: Do we accept rising inequality, unchecked corporate power, and lowered social and environmental standards, allowing the one per cent to become richer at our expense, or do we draw a line in the sand?
Canada's trade minister Ed Fast believes that the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) does not need to be renegotiated to address growing European concern about its investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision. We can hope that this intransigence could be the undoing of CETA in Europe.