Imagine this: you spend years organizing with your community to stop the destructive practice of fracking that is poisoning your water supply. The power of the people pulls through and you win! Your local government passes a moratorium on fracking. Time to celebrate, right?
But wait– you just got news that a foreign oil and gas company is suing your government for $250 million dollars for violating their “right” to frack under an international agreement that was signed 20 years ago.
Sound completely outrageous? Last month, Lone Pine, an American oil and gas company, filed an official lawsuit against the government of Canada for passing a moratorium on fracking under the St. Lawrence river in Quebec. Lone Pine is pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that gives transnational corporations the power to sue NAFTA governments should they pass policies that violate their potential profits.
Yes, you read that correctly. In the name of “free trade,” transnational corporations are being elevated to the status of nation-states through binding international free trade agreements. These agreements rewrite laws and regulations that act as “trade irritants”– such as environmental protections, labor laws, food safety standards, or financial regulations. And if any participating country attempts to move forward with policies in the public interest, corporations can sue for hundreds of millions of dollars if they violate their “right” to make profit.
And right now, the Obama administration is seeking to extend this power to 30,000 more companies under a new potential free trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP includes 12 countries and would encompass 40% of the global economy, making it the most ambitious trade agreement in U.S. history. While 600 corporations have been given official “trade advisor status”, the public has no access to the content of these negotiations. Congress has had no say either, even as they rewrite important laws and protections that our legislators have passed in the public interest. The TPP will bring a wave of new corporate attacks including weakened environmental regulation, extreme increases in dirty energy exports like fracking, and work to undermine our movements by making it difficult to enact new regulations in the future.
The enemy is clever and stealthy. They have devised ingenious ways to quietly pass far-reaching, devastating policies through the back door and destroy what little democratic power we hold now. The TPP is the perfect example. Many of us didn’t see it coming, and worse, many still do not know what is upon us. But it’s not too late– we can still stop the TPP. There is still hope– we hold a tremendous amount of power. It is times like these that require mass coordination and mobilization on an international scale. Not only so we can beat back global monsters like the TPP, but so that we may be move past positions of defense and take the power to determine our own future. While we work on local levels in our communities, we must also coordinate and communicate with our other brothers and sisters across the country that are fighting the same fight.
This month, join me at Powershift, where 10,000 young organizers from across the country will come together to connect and coordinate. I’ll be there to discuss current efforts to stop free trade agreements like the TPP, and learn from others how we can all work together. With globalized enemies, we need globalized resistance. Let us come together to celebrate our movement and find new ways to amplify our power through unity. Will I see you there?
Natalie Yoon is the National Organizer for United Students for Fair Trade. They recently launched their Topple the TPP campaign. Learn how to support the campaign here, and email Natalie at firstname.lastname@example.org for more ways to get involved and where to find her at Powershift!