3/4/2002

 

NAFTA/WTO Overrule U. S. Constitution

 

Would you believe me if I told you that if the U. S. decides a foreign product isn’t safe that you would have to pay the foreign manufacturer for the money he couldn’t make selling his product? And that it would be decided by a closed court higher than the Supreme Court and there’s nothing anyone or any agency of the U. S. can do about it?

 

It can be difficult sometimes to be as informed as we’d like to be about complex issues, especially if they are not well covered in the regular news. What are all those protesters at WTO (World Trade Organization) meetings complaining about? For one thing, the scenario I just painted above. It’s real. And a remarkably good, and even entertaining, one-hour show was on TV recently on just that topic.

 

The show was the February 1st installment of Bill Moyer’s “Now” series. In it he explains how NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) has a provision in it, which all the signatory countries agreed to, which creates just such a scenario. I won’t go into all the details because you can watch it for yourself if you want (I’ll tell you how). The point is that as more international trade agreements go into place, more of this is going to happen unless the democratic process stops it.

 

Trade is good and necessary and we need agreements to regulate it. But these agreements can have a big impact on businesses, to the tune of many billions of dollars. They have a heck of a motivation and the resources to influence the process, so guess what happens?

 

What happens is that money becomes the trump card. If there is a conflict between what is safe, or what is good for the environment or natural resources, or even with a countries own laws; tough, money trumps all. In the U. S. just one suit against one state is set to cost us almost a billion dollars, and these suits are likely to proliferate. Canada has already changed policies affecting public health because of the threat of what it would cost them.

 

The only thing to balance the profit motive is the light of day, the democratic process, informed citizens pushing back. Because that’s exactly what it is, a straight up balancing act. Money interests will push the process in their own direction as far as they can, until someone pushes back. When they see they can’t push any further without paying too high a price, when the politicians who sign these things refuse to because voter disapproval will cost them their office, that’s where the pushing stops.

 

The transcript of the show is available at www.pbs.org/now. Click on the “Search” link on the left and search for “NAFTA”. You’ll find links to the full transcript and to video outtakes of interviews. To buy the tape click on “Shop” at the top, and use the search box on the upper right to search for “NAFTA”. It’s on backorder at the moment but soon I’ll make sure the Prescott library has a copy of it too.

 

After you’ve learned enough about it to form your own opinion it wouldn’t hurt to let your congressman, your senators, even the White House, know what your opinion is.