Earth Day, the Tar Sands and Free Trade – Connecting the dots by Janet M Eaton
In a short article entitled “Earth Day and Tar Sands”, published by Common Dreams April 19th http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/19-8 ] Dale Wiehoff, VP of Communications and IP for the IATP [Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy], makes the link between the on-going exploitation of the tar sands and trade policy especially NAFTA's Chapter 11, investor state, and Ch 6, the Proportionality Clause.
But first he relates Earth Day to the Tar Sands by noting that a growing number of environmental concerns not the least of which was a major oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel led to Earth Day and then goes on to remind us that none of those earlier offshore disasters like Santa Barbara or Exxon Valdez caused anywhere near the environmental devastation being wreaked by the tar sands especially in relation to green house gases. He then reminds us of the tar sands link with free trade calling it the “rarely examined driver behind tar sands oil production”.
This is indeed is an important insight often lost in the endless 'black and white' rhetoric used by the Harper government to confine the debate to a neoliberal box where inevitability is assumed and multisectoral, citizen and even Opposition input is out rightly thwarted which then comes down to you’re for us or against the national interest. .
Wiehoff reminds us that the investor state clauses in Free Trade Agreements( FTAs) like NAFTA and the potential Canada - European CETA Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. now in final stages of negotiation, place corporate profits over all other considerations.
Many of us schooled in the anti-globalization movement later rephrased the ‘Global Democracy Movement’ are well aware of the insidious nature of Ch 11 and know also that the Investor State clause has become the global template pursued in FTAs specially when the US or Canada are involved. It now, however, appears that the growing inequity and impact on the planet caused by FTAs and their corporate biases and usurping of national sovereignty, have led some nations, like Australia, India, Korea, etc., to resist the demand to enter into trade agreements that insist on Investor State. [See April 12th blog on this site entitled Multiple Countries Rejecting Investor State Dispute Settlement http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/main-page/multiple-countries-rejecting-investor-state-dispute-settlement ]
And as if Investor State does not cause enough damage, NAFTA also inflicted Ch 6 or the Proportionality clause, another driver behind tar sands oil production”, which requires that Canada make two-thirds of its domestic oil production available for export to the United States in perpetuity. The impacts of this iniquitous and unequitable deal for big oil, is clearly explicated by John Dillon and Gordon laxer in their insightful CCPA report “Over a Barrel: Exiting from NAFTA's Proportionality Clause”. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/over-barrel
We have also seen free trade raising its ugly head over the tar sands during the CETA negotiations, with Harper government officials crossing the Atlantic many times to lobby the EU to reject placing the tar sands in a separate ‘dirty’ fuel category in its ‘Fuel Quality Directive’ which is part of the EU's effort to target climate change and reduce the emissions intensity of fuel in cars and other machinery.
And now with free trade on the agenda with China and a foreign investment protection-promotion agreement concluded there is yet another environmentally threatening free trade- related imperative i.e to ensure transport of the tar sands bitumen to the Pacific coast by the Gateway and other pipelines to make it available for export , come hell or high water.
Enter the Harper Budget alias the “Economic Action Plan 2012” tabled March 27th with Bill C-38, the 2012 Budget Bill, fast on its heels, tabled April 26th both of which further remind us that trade trumps the environment at every turn in what can only be described as an unprecedented and outrageous Assault on the Environment for Big Oil Profits as described at:
Wiehoff also concludes that trade trumps people, communities and the environment. :
"When Native American tribes say tar sands oil extraction violates their sovereignty, when communities fear tar sands oil will contaminate their drinking water, or when climate experts say tar sands oil will increase global warming, all of them are reminded that trade policy take precedent."
But the time has come to move beyond reminders. With this life threatening and planetary threat of the ‘tar sands’ travesty, with many of the earth’s ecosystems teetering on collapse, and with the global economy recognized by all ,but the global leaders, as a failed project long past its due date, it is now the time to consider the 'deglobalization' of trade and a planned 'degrowth' of the economy. We must refocus our thinking on this kind of paradigm shift. In fact as one delves into the diverse literature of the anti-globalization movement, localization, ecological economics, systemic economic change and the newly emerging academic field of 'Degrowth' one discovers a well developed rationale and a number of credible suggestions for shrinking trade within a new paradigm of scaled down growth that would bring trade closer to home be it national or bio regional with a focus on local economies.
Colin Hines some years ago in a book called "Localization: A Global Manifesto” and more recently Michael Schuman author of "Going Local" have both made the observation that for localization to take hold global trade rules and structures will have to be altered or in some cases eliminated. David Korten in his recently published ‘New Economic Agenda’ report notes that we will, among other things, have to:” Rewrite International Trade and Investment Rules to Secure National Ownership, Self-Reliance, and Self-Determination” because the current rules of the global economy give priority to the interests, rights, and power of global corporations over the interests, rights, and power of people and the governments responsible for their well-being. And Herman Daly, renowned ecological economist as noted in John Dillon’s ‘The Economics of Sustainability’ informs us that: “For ecological reasons we must reduce rather than increase international trade. We must “move toward a more nationalist orientation that seeks to develop domestic production for internal markets as the first option, having recourse to international trade only when clearly much more efficient.”
Janet Eaton's blogs, writings and power points can be found at:
http://beyondcollapse.wordpress.com/ and some at
Janet is presently researching the relationship between “Degrowth and the Deglobalization of Trade” for a paper she will present at the Montreal International Degrowth Conference of the Americas, May 18th 2012. http://montreal.degrowth.org/program.html.