On the 11th of October, the 4th round of NAFTA renegotiation talks opened at the Pentagon City Sheraton in Virginia. Outside, protesters demanded NAFTA be scrapped instead, and a banner across the street read “Fix it or Nix it. Similar posters appeared all over Capitol Hill and around the IMF and World Bank, which meet Oct 13-15.
One protesters backed up by a videographer managed to get inside the Sheraton, but security was very fast to order the pair back out.
That same morning, the Council of Canadians and their allies delivered petitions on Capitol Hill demanding that corporate courts known as Investor State Disupte Resolution (ISDN) be removed from NAFTA. This while Trump is saying “NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good.” Trump is trying to use existing trade as a hostage to ram through even more demands on Canada and Mexico, but the Council of Canadians now estimates the odds that the US will simply pull out of NAFTA as about 50%.
Speaking of ISDN, NAFTA’s corporate courts were the model for similar provisions in almost every trade deal promoted by the United States ever since. For example, because of ISDN in the CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Area) deal, El Salvador has paid out huge judgements to mining corporation Pacific Rim rather than permit them to mine gold using cyanide, and in the process destroy one of the country’s great rivers. Poisoning that river would poison Indigenous people who depend on it, but Pacific Rim would have made a lot of money. The ISDN process allows such corporations to sue, demanding their lost profits be paid back in full.
The existing NAFTA mechanism was been used by TransCanada to sue the US for blocking the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, though Trump’s approval might have mooted the lawsuit. On the other hand, it may not have, as Transcanada now can never make the profits they would have if the line had been opened from mid 2012 until oil prices crashed in 2014. The pipeline is probably no longer profitable to build, TransCanada says they will make a final announcement sometime this fall.
Trump is talking a nasty “America First” line, making demands for more concessions from Canada and Mexico. These include the insertion of some of the worst corporate-friendly provisions from the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership that he effectively ran against. This may prevent the negotiations from going anywhere. The President of Mexico is a right-winger, but faces a progressive opponent in next year’s election. Almost the worst possible image for any candidate for office in Mexico is to be seen as subservient to Donald Trump. There is even talk of a US-Canada trade deal excluding Mexico and presumably dumping NAFTA because of this.
The TPP was so unpopular that both Hillery and Trump were forced to oppose it, perceptions among white working class voters unconcerned with Trump’s racism that Hillery would flip-flop on the TPP may be the reason Trump is in power. Now Trump is seeking to impose the TPP’s rules on both Canada and Mexico, raising the likelihood that either or both will walk away from any deal.
A protester gets inside the Sheraton where the 4th round of NAFTA renegotiation talks are being held(photo by Flush the TPP
Council of Canadians delivering petitions on Capitol Hill demanding the removal of ISDN corporate courts from NAFTA(Brent Patterson photo)
“Trump” taking a knee outside the NAFTA negotiations
Anti-NAFTA poster by the World Bank (which meets this weekend)