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[GreenYes] "Free" Trade
BILL MOYERS REPORTS: TRADING DEMOCRACY REVEALS HOW AN OBSCURE
PROVISION HIDDEN IN NAFTA CAN COST TAXPAYERS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WHEN
MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS SUE` THE GOVERNMENT OVER ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH
LAWS THAT THREATEN THEIR PROFITS
Documentary Exposing How NAFTA's Chapter 11
Has Become Private Justice For Foreign Companies
Premieres February 5, at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings)
Newest Collaboration Between Bill Moyers And Sherry Jones
Investigating Our Democracy At Risk
Three years after a Mississippi jury found a Canadian-based conglomerate
guilty of fraud in attempting to put a family-owned Biloxi funeral home out
of business, the Canadian company filed a claim against the United States,
demanding $725 million in compensation.
When California banned a gasoline additive that had contaminated drinking
water throughout the state, another Canadian firm sued the U.S. government
to force citizens to pay nearly 1 billion dollars for its potential lost
In what one attorney called "an end-run around the Constitution,"
corporations are using a little-known provision of the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to challenge public laws, regulations and jury
verdicts not only in the United States, but in Canada and Mexico as well.
And, they are arguing those cases not in courts of law, but before secret
How can this be happening? And why do so few people know about it?
In the latest in their series of exposés on the secret recesses of American
democracy, Bill Moyers and Sherry Jones uncover how multinational
corporations have acquired the power to demand compensation if laws aimed at
protecting the environment or public health harm them financially. The
one-hour documentary, BILL MOYERS REPORTS: TRADING DEMOCRACY, premieres
February 5 at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).
"When the North American Free Trade Agreement became the law of the land
almost a decade ago, the debate we heard was about jobs," notes Bill Moyers.
"One provision was too obscure to stir up controversy. It was called
Chapter 11, and it was supposedly written to protect investors from having
their property seized by foreign governments. But since NAFTA was ratified,
corporations have used Chapter 11 to challenge the powers of government to
protect its citizens, to undermine environmental and health laws, even
attack our system of justice."
Speaking with legislators, public policy experts, community leaders and
citizens about the lawsuits filed under NAFTA's Chapter 11, BILL MOYERS
REPORTS: TRADING DEMOCRACY unravels the hidden repercussions of a treaty
that was supposed to promote democracy through free trade, but now appears
to have given deep-pocketed corporations the means to undermine democracy
across international borders.
The program explores the case of Methanex, a Canadian company that is the
world's largest producer of the key ingredient in the gasoline additive
MTBE, which was found to be a carcinogen. In 1995 MTBE began turning up in
wells throughout California, and by 1999 had contaminated thirty public
water systems. The state ordered that the additive be phased out. Methanex
filed suit under NAFTA's Chapter 11, seeking $970 million in compensation
for loss of market share and, consequently, future profits.
With regard to the Methanex case, environmental attorney Martin Wagner tells
Moyers, "they're saying that California either can't implement this
protection or that they get a billion dollars. People should be outraged by
As Moyers reports, many people who have been affected by MTBE contamination
are indeed outraged. But they are helpless to do anything. The NAFTA
tribunal that will decide the Methanex case - like all the tribunals hearing
Chapter Eleven-based cases - is closed to the public. Yet, it is the
taxpayers "who will foot the bill if the tribunal decides in favor of the
Canadian company," says Moyers.
But the ramifications for the public go well beyond the loss of taxpayer
dollars, a journalist William Greider explains. "If Methanex wins its
billion dollar claim over California environmental law, there ain't gonna be
many states enacting that law, are there?" he says, adding that the NAFTA
provision "hobbles the authority of government to act in the broader public
interest. And, in fact, that was the idea in the first place."
Addressing a Chapter 11 case in which the Ethyl Corporation, an American
manufacturer of another gasoline additive called MMT, successfully sued
Canada over a ban on the product, Greider tells Moyers: "Governments are
already being intimidated by the mere threat of a claim being filed against
some regulatory action. If you're a civil servant, or even a political
leader, you've got to think twice when a corporate lawyer comes to you and
says, quite forcefully, we're going to hit you for a half a billion dollars
if you do this."
Moyers also takes his investigation south of the border to the Mexican state
of San Luis Potosí, where an American company called Metalclad tried to
bulldoze over the protests of both state and local governments to reopen a
toxic waste dump that many citizens feared was making them sick. When
Metalclad was stopped by the local town council the company invoked Chapter
11 and was awarded $16 million in compensation. The crux of Metalclad's
victory was the Chapter 11 phrase "tantamount to expropriation." As Martin
Wagner explains: "Not only do governments have to compensate when they
expropriate or take away property, but they have to do so whenever they do
something that is 'tantamount to expropriation'."
Challenges being mounted under Chapter 11 are not only directed
toward regulatory activity, they are also successfully overruling jury
decisions in civil courts of law. The documentary explores a case in
Mississippi where a Biloxi funeral home owner was awarded punitive damages
by a jury in a civil suit against a large Canadian corporation called the
Loewen Group. The local funeral home owner alleged that the Loewen Group had
engaged in "fraudulent" and "predatory" trade practices, and the jury found
against the Canadian company. Three years later, the Loewen Group filed a
Chapter 11 claim against American taxpayers saying the jury was biased
against Canadians, and in a preliminary ruling, the NAFTA tribunal has
declared the Mississippi trial a legitimate target. The Loewen suit, notes
Moyers, "could conceivably open the U.S. civil justice system to challenge -
including decisions of the United States Supreme Court."
This startling realization, and the knowledge that corporate
giants are pushing to expand NAFTA to 31 more countries in the Western
Hemisphere, prompts Moyers to ask, "Are we promoting democracy - as we claim
- or trading it away?"
TRADING DEMOCRACY is the latest collaboration between Bill
Moyers and producer Sherry Jones, who produced TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS
REPORT in March 2001. Their previous productions include WASHINGTON'S OTHER
SCANDAL, the Peabody-winning investigation of campaign finance scandals in
the 1996 Presidential elections, and the Emmy-winning HIGH CRIMES AND
MISDEMEANORS for PBS's Frontline series.
Major funding for BILL MOYERS REPORTS: TRADING DEMOCRACY was
provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; The Kohlberg
Foundation, Inc.; The Herb Alpert Foundation; and The Bernard and Audre
Rapoport Foundation. Corporate funding was provided by Mutual of America
Life Insurance Company.
BILL MOYERS REPORTS: TRADING DEMOCRACY is produced by Public
Affairs Television, Inc., in association with Washington Media Associates,
and is presented on PBS by Thirteen/WNET New York. Producer: Sherry Jones
editor Jennifer Beman-White; Associate Producers: Christopher Buchanan and
Matilda Bode; Executive Editors: Bill Moyers and Judith Davidson Moyers;
Executives in Charge: Judy Doctoroff O'Neill, Judith Davidson Moyers;
Executive Producer: Felice Firestone; Executive Director of Special
Projects: Deborah Rubenstein.
For more information on "Trading Democracy":
TRADING DEMOCRACY Outreach and Promotion
Kelly & Salerno Communications
RECYCLEWORLDS CONSULTING Corp
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 345-0381
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