This is just stunning. I did not expect Naomi Klein’s book to make much of a mark in my thinking but she just did with just a few paragraphs.
The WTO ruled against Canada, determining that Ontario’s buy-local provisions were indeed illegal. And the province wasted little time in nixing the local-content rules that had been so central to its program. It was this, Mr. Maccario said, that led his foreign investors to pull their support for factory expansion. “Seeing all those, for lack of a better term, mixed messages … was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
From a climate perspective, the WTO ruling was an outrage: If we want to keep warming below catastrophic levels, wealthy economies like Canada must make getting off fossil fuels their top priority.
How absurd, then, for the WTO to interfere with that success – to let trade trump the planet itself.
And yet from a strictly legal standpoint, Japan and the EU were perfectly correct. One of the key provisions in almost all free trade agreements involves something called “national treatment,” which requires governments to make no distinction between goods produced by local companies and goods produced by foreign firms outside their borders.
Worse, it’s not only critical supports for renewable energy that are at risk of these attacks. Any attempt by a government to regulate the sale or extraction of particularly dirty kinds of fossil fuels is also vulnerable to similar trade challenges.
For instance, in 2012, the U.S.-incorporated oil company Lone Pine began taking steps to use NAFTA to challenge Quebec’s hard-won fracking moratorium. It has since announced plans to sue Canada for at least $230-million U.S. under NAFTA’s rules on expropriation and “fair and equitable treatment.”
Yeah, that’s a problem. Basically, an international agreement is impossible and local action is illegal.
All the paranoia about an international climate enforcement power is misplaced. We already have a global power structure, but all it cares about is using everything up.