Bill Moyers Reports: Trading Democracy, PBS Documentary
Already, Chapter 11 has led to corporate assaults against health, safety and environmental laws, with one company demanding compensation close to $1 billion. Beyond that, even "Buy America" laws intended to protect our country's steel industry are now under attack by multi-national corporate profiteers.
Amazingly, the Bush Administration is now in negotiations to expand this dangerous NAFTA investor provision to 31 more countries in the hemisphere, through the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as well as through bilateral deals like the U.S.-Chile or the proposed Central America Agreement (CAFTA).
1) Urge Congress to oppose these outrageous "investor-to-state" provisions in trade and investment agreements and the FTAA. Tell Congress that Chapter 11 investor rules undermine our democratic rights to choose our own laws to protect the environment, as well as our health and safety, and that a meaningful and substantial revision of this terrible NAFTA provision is necessary. (For a list of some necessary revisions to Chapter 11, check out the letter from Congressman Doggett (D-TX) on our web-page: Congressman Doggett on Chapter 11 Revisions). CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE BY CALLING THE U.S. CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD AT 202-224-3121, OR 202-225-3121.
2) Order a copy of the documentary and arrange for a screening of it with friends/family/colleagues. To order, call Films for the Humanities and Sciences at 1.800.257.5126, and speak with Diane Bilello (ext. 8039) or Teresa Santiago (ext. 6113). Copies are $29.95 plus shipping.
For more information on Chapter 11 visit these links:
Read Global Trade Watch's recent report, "NAFTA Chapter 11 Investor-to-State Cases: Bankrupting Democracy."
Or check out a shorter article from the Multinational Monitor, "NAFTA's Investor 'Rights' A Corporate Dream, A Citizen Nightmare."
Several organizations have also released information on Chapter 11, including Center for International Environmental Law (www.ciel.org), Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) and the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org).
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 (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 profits.
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 trade tribunals.
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.
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 that."
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."
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.
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.