Before we put final signatures on a30-year investment deal with China and a permanent free-trade deal with Europe, it might do Canada some good to review problems that were never corrected with the now 20-year-old North American Free Trade deal - and ensure we don't repeat them.
Despite sabre-rattling by politicians on both sides of the border, NAFTA has essentially remained unchanged. Yet, it has many clauses that could be improved or eliminated.
One of the worst of those clauses came back into play this week when an American company, Lone Pine Resources, announced it plans to sue Canada for more than $250 million
because of a Quebec moratorium on fracking.
This is the latest in a long string of suits filed under NAFTA's Chapter 11, which allows companies to sue for perceived financial losses caused by government regulations and decisions.
Many of the suits have been filed against policies intended to protect the environment or manage natural resources.
Chapter 11 threatens governments' rights to protect the environment and safety of its citizens. At the very least, it has led to many nuisance lawsuits by companies.
What's particularly inconsistent with this clause is that while an American company is suing over a Canadian province's moratorium (not a ban, but a temporary stoppage), it doesn't have the same rights to sue U.S. jurisidictions with similar moratoriums. Vermont has banned the controversial practice of fracking. New York announced this week fracking regulations will be delayed, extending a moratorium there.
But with NAFTA, Delaware-registered Lone Pine gets to sue this country, but not its own.
Quebec's moratorium is a wise
government approach to the controversial drilling method.
Such a go-slow approach is safer than the drill-now-figure-out-the-consequences-later approach being taken by governments like B.C.'s.
A trade agreement that usurps local and provincial government decision-making is a cause for concern.
- City Editor Pat Bulmer