One of several problems with NAFTA and other trade agreements is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause. It allows corporations to sue governments that pass legislation to protect health, environment, and workers for the loss of future profits outside of a country’s judicial system. Cooke Aquaculture, a Canadian company whose operations in the state face shut-down as a result of its own incompetency and negligence, threatens to use ISDS to force Washington into an arbitration agreement and pay out over $76 million.
Last year, Cooke Aquaculture made the headlines when one of their offshore fish farms spilled an estimated 250,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. It soon became clear that the spill was the result of negligence and substandard maintenance. The damage these escaped Atlantic salmon cause to our marine ecosystem will take a while to assess. But we know that they not only threaten the genetic integrity and health of our native salmon but also compete with them for food and habitat. Faced with the risk of future accidents that would threaten Washington’s marine ecosystem and industries that depend on it, state legislators passed legislation to phase out and ultimately ban offshore Atlantic salmon farming in Washington.
Yet NAFTA, one of several trade agreements that favors corporations over people, provides Cooke Aquaculture with the means to potentially force over $76 million out of Washington. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must remove the undemocratic ISDS clause that puts the profits of corporations over the health of people and environment.