Creative Resistance Disrupts Nafta Trade Ministers Meeting!

Posted by admin on Aug 14th, 2007

On August 14th 2007, a group calling themselves NAFTA-ade attempted to establish a NAFTA free-trade zone in downtown Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Hotel. The free-trade zone, which involved setting up a lemonade business, was setup inside the Westin Bayshore Hotel, where the NAFTA Trade Minister’s were meeting. At the Lemonade Stand NAFTA-ade attempted to establish a market for their new brand of lemonade, which boasts the “bitter taste of free-trade.”

However, minutes after opening-up for business the NAFTA-ade Lemonade Stand was shut down by Westin Bayshore security and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). NAFTA-ade members were removed forcefully from the hotel by police and threatened with arrests, but not before the group’s lemons, crucial to production, were strewn on the floor of the Bayshore lobby and then apprehended by Bayshore staff and the VPD.

As a corporation seeking to establish a market in the North American economy, NAFTA-ade thought that the provisions of NAFTA allowing corporations unlimited access to trade would apply equally to their lemonade stand. In reaction to the closure of their free-trade zone, NAFTA-ade has explained that they will use Chapter 11 of NAFTA – which provides corporations the ability to sue national governments for impeding free-trade through national laws and regulations – to fight for their right to open up shop wherever and whenever please and to seek compensation for lost potential profits. Chapter 11 is the same law that forced the Canadian government to pay the US-based Ethyl Corporation “$13 million in damages and [to] drop its ban on the dangerous gasoline additive MMT, a known toxin that attacks the human nervous system.” (Public Citizen)

Enraged at being removed from the hotel’s premises, and seeking the fair application of NAFTA law to corporate business, one member of NAFTA-ade asked a VPD officer if they would also be removing the Westin Bayshore from the unceded Coast Salish territory upon which it sits. The officer responded positively and the group is now awaiting the eviction of the Bayshore.


Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994, the bottom 20% of Canadian families saw
their incomes fall by 7.6% while the top 20% saw their incomes rise by 16.8%.

In Canada, the business community has used NAFTA to push for cuts in social programs, arguing that such provisions are necessary in order to compete with the United States, which generally offers lower levels of protection. The clearest example of their impact is the scaling back of Canada’s unemployment insurance. According to a publication of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the percentage of unemployed that qualified for this insurance dropped from 87 percent in 1989 to only 39 percent in 2001. (ZNet)

Since 1994, “over a million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost. Despite the fact that many of these jobs have been relocated to Mexico, the majority have been in the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border where workers are not protected by any national labour or environmental laws.” (ZNet) In fact, “the number of Mexicans living in severe poverty (living on less than $2.00 a day) has grown by four million since NAFTA began in 1994” (CorpWatch), while “eight million have fallen from the middle class into poverty.” (ZNet)

NAFTA was established to benefit big business and multinational corporations through actively restricting the rights and free movement of individuals while creating economic climates where local small businesses simply can’t compete. This has been achieved through producing situations of “labour flexibility” where labour laws are attacked and unions are dismantled, making it easier for companies to employ contract, part-time and temporary workers. This equates the “Walmart-ization” of labour and has meant the disappearance of secure jobs. Not surprisingly this type of work is mostly filled by (im)migrant and non-status workers. For example, NAFTA-ade has been shocked to learn that under NAFTA, the Mexican government was forced to eliminate subsidies to corn producers, meanwhile corn produced in the US remained subsidized. As a result, over 1.5 million Mexican farmers have lost their farms and been forced to migrate North to work in low-paying sectors as either undocumented workers or through oppressive “guest worker” programs that leave migrants vulnerable and without access to full rights.

The NAFTA Trade Ministers in Vancouver comes one week before the third meeting of the Security and Prosperity Partnership – a new secret deal being negotiated without public consultation by the US, Canadian and Mexican governments. In essence, the SPP is a NAFTA-plus-homeland security model. The agenda of the SPP is being directed by the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), which was launched as part of the SPP in June of 2006. The NACC is made up of 30 corporate leaders from Canada, the US and Mexico, with ten advisors from each of the SPP signatory states – the same states signed onto NAFTA, and the same corporate leaders that have made big bucks off of NAFTA. The SPP however is harboring even greater evils than NAFTA: proposing military integration; bulk water exports from Canada to the US; privatization of Mexico’s nationalized oil sector; the implementation of biometrics in national IDs; coordinated border surveillance; integration of refugee policies; expansion of temporary worker programs; harmonization of health and environmental regulations; and more.

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