By Mary Wildfire|
Right now, a gang operating in Washington D.C. is setting up one of the biggest train robberies in history. If they can pull
it off, a train loaded with goodies belonging to the public will run straight through Congress and on out to the board offices of the
world's biggest corporations. There's only one way to pull off a heist this size...that's to set up a special, fast track, and then run
that train through flashing and wailing, so fast nobody can flag it down and inspect it.
But if we do get it stopped, what'll we find? Gold? Cash? Nothing like that. Not even goods. No, these trains are loaded
with boring paperwork, full of confusing acronyms like WTO and GATT and FTAA. WTO is the World Trade Organization.
FTAA stands for Free Trade Area of the Americas, a planned extension of NAFTA beyond Mexico to the rest of Latin
America. If you take a close look at the details, though, you'll realize that what that train is really carrying is power-- the power
of the people to make the decisions that count, about all kinds of important things. In other words, what they're planning to steal is
I'm not speculating here. A lot of this has already happened, through NAFTA and the WTO "Rounds" that have already
happened. NAFTA has a provision called Chapter 11 that gives corporations the right to directly sue governments that pass laws
that might cut into their profits. It was used by the Metalclad corporation when the town of San Luis Potosi in Mexico tried to
refuse to host a toxic waste dump. Now the town is paying $16.7 million in damages, and construction has begun. The NAFTA
tribunal also decided that the US does not have the right to refuse to let Mexican trucks runs all over the US, even though Mexico
has much lower safety standards. Remember that tanker that overturned here in West Virginia, and the delay in finding out what
it was carrying because the driver didn't speak English? Expect a lot more of that.
Then there was the case that Ethyl Corporation brought before the NAFTA tribunal because Canada had the nerve to
ban their product, MMT, a gasoline additive suspected of causing brain damage in children. There was no ruling; seeing the
writing on the wall in other decisions, the Canadian Parliament dropped their ban, paid $13 million in compensation to Ethyl, and
declared publicly that MMT is safe. In a very similar case; California banned another toxic gasoline additive called MTBE after
finding massive drinking water contamination, and the Canadian company that makes it is suing. These are just a few
The WTO doesn't have provisions, yet, that allow corporations to directly sue governments; they still have to go to the
trouble of getting their home government to sue on their behalf. But they have the same sweet arrangement if it does, wherein
they get to have a secret panel of unaccountable trade bureaucrats rule on their case instead of the regular courts. So far these
panels have struck down virtually every public health, safety, or environmental law that's been challenged. This is not surprising
when we see that the committees that advise the negotiating teams have hundreds of corporate reps deeply involved, but few or
no public interest advocates.
We all know that the mess of our campaign finance system creates a tendency for our representatives in Congress to be
more interested in pleasing their contributors than their constituents. This is a problem we need to solve, but meanwhile, if we
don't stop that train, it won't matter who we elect or what they vote for. FTAA, the WTO and the like will give corporations
more rights to simply veto any laws they don't like. Which means our Congress will assume a ceremonial, decorative function like
the European royalty. And the world's oldest democracy will be history.
Don't let that happen! Get out there now with track-wrecking tools. Call your representative, toll-free courtesy of
AFL-CIO, at 1-800-393-1082. When you tap in your zip code you'll be automatically connected to your Congressperson's office.
Tell him or her to vote NO on Fast Track. This is especially important if you are in Shelley Moore Capito's district, as she is still
For questions, arguments, or information on some of the other reasons to oppose Fast Track and the FTAA, contact me