Let's get real: Americans have been the big winners under NAFTA

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      It's a little pathetic watching Canadian politicians, journalists, and business people prostrating themselves in the face of Trump administration bullying.

      Ever since the U.S. declared that it wanted to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement, some Canadian officials have been running around like scared mice.

      Hardly anyone in this country has stood up to declare that NAFTA has actually been a bad deal for Canada.

      The proof can be found in a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report written in 2015 by Scott Sinclair.

      Sinclair examined 77 known investor-state dispute claims up until January 1, 2015.

      Under NAFTA's chapter 11, corporations can sue governments for anything that they deem to be unequal treatment.

      The most claims, 35, were filed against Canada. Mexico was next with 22, followed by America at 20.

      "Canada has paid out NAFTA damages totaling over $CAD172 million, while Mexico has paid damages of $US204 million," Sinclair reported. "The U.S. has yet to lose a NAFTA chapter 11 case."

      You read that correctly: America has not lost a single claim!

      A dozen of the claims filed against Canada dealt with rules concerning environmental protection. Another 10 concerned resource management.

      "Canada has been sued more times and faces more active claims than any other NAFTA party," Sinclair stated. "Indeed, according to the latest figures on ISDS claims from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Canada is now the most sued developed country in the world. This dubious distinction is entirely due to lawsuits under NAFTA chapter 11."

      Sinclair pointed out that NAFTA's chapter 11 has a "chilling effect" on governments planning new public policies or regulations.

      "The risk of investment treaty litigation and sanctions, even if uncertain, can deter governments from acting in the public interest or distort policy choices towards options that are more amenable to foreign commercial interests," he declared.

      This is problematic as various levels of government try to address climate change, Indigenous claims, and rising medical costs.

      Today, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is expected to provide details about the U.S. government's priorities for a renegotiated NAFTA.

      Canada's response, at the very least, should call for a radical overhaul of chapter 11. It's time to stop U.S. companies from holding a big stick over the heads of federal, provincial, and municipal governments who want to take action to address environmental challenges.

      The World Trade Organization doesn't give corporations the right to take governments to tribunals to enforce the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. It has to be a nation-versus-nation complaint.

      There's no reason why the same principle can't apply to trade disputes within North America. 

      It's time our federal government developed a backbone.

      Update: After this article was posted, the United States trade representative released his governmemt's NAFTA negotiating objectives.