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Meeting in Vancouver Sounding the Death Knell of NAFTA? Not Quite PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Wednesday, 15 August 2007 06:25

2007 August 15

Meeting in Vancouver Sounding the Death Knell of NAFTA? Not Quite

PEJ News - Joan Russow - Global Compliance Research Project.

At the press conference in Vancouver on Tuesday August 14, 2007, of the NAFTA representatives from Canada, Mexico and the United States, there were the usual platitudes about the success of NAFTA: coupled with suggestions of a little tinkering here or there: "It is a living document"; It needs innocuous changes" "we must tie up loose ends". There was not a call, however, for the abrogation of NAFTA. NAFTA must be abrogated and declared to be null and void, and in its place should be established the North American Court of Compliance (NACC).



The three representatives knew that if the United States ever seriously became concerned about NAFTA, and if perchance the Democratic candidates in the upcoming election actually called for the abrogation of NAFTA [rather than calling for the inclusion of so-called environmental and labour standards] then the death knell for NAFTA may well be sealed. [Unless the Democrats as usual retreat when elected or advocate little more than cosmetic changes].

If, however, the Canadian government, had dared to raise concerns about the impact of NAFTA on destroying the environment, on circumventing International labour Organization standards, on denying social justice and social security programs through privatization, on jeopardizing a publicly funded health care system, on leading to increased public private partnership in the commons, on causing Canada to fail to discharge its international obligations, on contributing to the depletion of natural resources to service US insatiable model of consumption, on damaging food safety through genetically engineered food and crops, dragging of Canada into US-led military operations, or into the US inspired Security and Prosperity Partnership; NAFTA would not be in Jeopardy.

Or would NAFTAphils quiver if Canada objected to the numerous US multinational industry take-overs of Canadian companies, to the US control of the economy, to the increased US pressure to increase the Canadian Defence budget and the "Canadian" defence industry.

[But what Conservative or Liberal government in Canada would seriously raise these concerns]

NAFTA would still be safe, if the Mexican government had dared to raise concerns about the flagrant mistreatment of workers and their families in the Maquiadoras , about the destruction of indigenous ejidos, and family farms, or about the dumping of US products etc [but what PRI of PAN government would seriously raise these issues]

But when the US rumbles its concerns NAFTA shudder


Over the years, member states have incurred obligations under international conventions, treaties, and covenants, have made commitments through UN Conference Action Plans, and have created expectations through UN General Assembly Resolutions. If an obligation incurred or a commitment made by the preponderance of states, indicating broad geographical support as well as support from a wide range of different legal systems, these obligations and commitments are deemed to reflect peremptory norms. These norms are related to protecting the environment, to guaranteeing human rights, including civil and political rights, social economic and cultural rights, and labour rights, to ensuring social justice, and to preventing war and conflict.

Canada, Mexico and United States, have all been derelict in their compliance with international peremptory norms. Canada, and Mexico often sign and ratify international instruments and then fail to enact the necessary legislation to ensure compliance and enforcement. The United States has generally demonstrated contempt for international instruments, and for the International Court of Justice.


Under the October 1993. Environmental Assessment Review of NAFTA. Mulroney misrepresented NAFTA to the Canadian public. In this document, it was claimed that all international agreements would take precedence over NAFTA. Whereas in the NAFTA agreement (Article 104), only three agreements were listed, Basel Convention, CITIES, {Convention on International Trade in Endangered species], and the Montreal protocol. The convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change were not listed.

Article 104.1 obligations will prevail in convention on International Trade in endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), the Montreal Protocol (1990), Basel convention on the Control of transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their disposal (1989)

It then goes on the state that the precedence of other instruments will be negotiated in the the future. But given the fact that the United States has shown little interest in signing and ratifying key environmental instruments, it is unlikely that there will be more environmental instruments taking precedence over NAFTA.

Advocates of NAFTA once proclaimed that the NAFTA agreement was the strongest environmental agreement and cited the section where states were required not to relax environmental standards to attract industry (personal communication, GATT “environmental” representative in Geneva, 1993). When this provision was tested by environmental groups in the United States, the US argued successfully that rather than relaxing standards they had changed the standard – a practice that was not explicitly prohibited under NAFTA.

All three states did sign and ratify the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the US has, however, refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol


All three countries have been particularly remiss in not ratifying International Labour Organization instruments. An examination of the hundred or so ILO Conventions indicates that very few have been signed and ratified by the three states, and that there is very little interest on the part of the countries to truly respect labour rights..

All three states have signed and ratified the International Covenant of Civil and Political rights (ICCPR). Canada and the United States have both violated this Covenant through the Homeland Security Act, in the case of the United States, and the Anti-terrorism Act in the case of Canada. Both Canada and the United States have discriminated on the ground of “political and other opinion” by establishing No-fly lists. [Perhaps if Mexico has not already established a “Homeland Anti-terrorist Security list” (HATS) and a no-fly list; is the establishment of this Act and list not far behind?].

The US and Mexico have not signed and ratified the important first Optional Protocol to the ICCPR; this Covenant permits citizens, once they have exhausted all domestic remedies, to take evidence of the violation of the ICCPR to the international Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The United States has consistently refused to ratify the International Covenant of Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, which among other provisions guarantees the right to food, right to housing, right to education. The United States has also failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Woment.

Only Mexico has signed and ratified the Convention for the Protection of Migrant workers and their families.


Some NAFTA Proponents have attempted to argue that NAFTA would be improved if instead of the side agreements on the environment and labour, environmental and labour standards should become an integral part of NAFTA. Given that the enforcement mechanism is usually a NAFTA Tribunal set up by three states that have to various degrees failed to abide by international labour and environmental norms, it would seem inappropriate for any body associated with NAFTA to judge compliance with any international peremptory norms which they themselves do not recognize..

NAFTA MUST BE ABROGATED AND IN ITS PLACE A NORTH AMERICAN COMPLIANCE COURT (NACC) [Not to be confused with the North American Competitive Council which through the SPP is intent on relaxing all standards to facilitate corporate competitiveness)

NAFTA should be abrogated and declared to be null and void on the grounds that for years it has encouraged and perpetuated the violation of international peremptory norms. In its place should be establish the North American Court of Compliance. This court would first of all require all three states to finally sign and ratify all relevant international instruments that reflect peremptory norms, and to finally enact the necessary legislation to ensure compliance. In addition, the Court could hear evidence presented by citizens on state and corporate non compliance with these norms. The Court would be empowered to revoke charters and licences of all corporations that have violated these norms either in North America or globally. 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 13:02

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