Frances Russell lays bare what is really going on behind the Harper government's trade agenda:
Their real purpose is to repeal democracy, to elevate investor/corporate rights over the democratic will of the people. Corporations — not governments — become the decision-makers, the de facto rulers.
This corporate coup d’etat is being accomplished through Orwellian investor rights clauses empowering corporations to sue governments, often for astronomical sums, should governments enact any laws for the public good that constrain corporate interests.
The odious concept that corporate rights should trump democratic rights was pioneered in the 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement negotiated and signed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government.
To underscore her point, she reviews the record under NAFTA:
To date, Canada has faced over 30 investor-state claims under NAFTA, lost or settled five cases, been forced to pay over $157 million in damages and incurred tens of millions more in legal costs. Mexico has paid out $187 million. But the U.S. — which wrote the rules and has property rights entrenched in its constitution, unlike its two trade partners — has never lost a case and thus has paid nothing.
The real problem, she writes, is that these disputes are handled behind closed doors and rarely go before a judge:
The arbitrators are often corporate lawyers. They lack judicial independence, training and experience. They tend to favour corporations over governments. There is an open bias in the process. Investors can sue governments but governments cannot sue investors.
And that is the heart of the problem: governments cannot act to defend the rights of citizens. Welcome to corporate rule.