What Canada does over the next six months or so in the
water/trade debate will forever define us as a people
and as a nation.
(Wendy R. Holm, P.Ag.--email@example.com an agrologist,
agricultural economist and journalist who lives on Bowen
Island, British Columbia. She was recently named Agrologist
of the Year 2000, in part for her work on the water/trade
issue. She has written and spoken extensively on the policy
implications of water's inclusion in the trade agreements
for over a decade. She originally wrote a longer version
of the foregoing essay for B.C.'s Country Life magazine.)
is the most critical policy arena of the century. Our
water resources have been under threat ever since former
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Simon Reisman
as Canada's chief trade negotiator in January 1986.
had previously been a lobbyist for the proposed Great
Recycling And Northern Diversion (GRAND) Canal project.
His appointment came a scant eight months after his
speech to the Ontario Economic Council in which he said
that the price of free trade with the United States
was the massive development of Canadian water exports.
He said that he had "personally" suggested the idea
to leaders of government and business on both sides
of the border, and that he had "been greatly heartened
by the initial response."
his appointment as Canada's trade negotiator, Reisman
said, "In my judgment, water will be the most critical
area of Canada-U.S. relations over the next hundred
years. How quickly this issue develops and how much
attention is paid depends on how critical the American
water shortage is."
U.S. counterpart at the trade table was Clayton Yeutter,
a man with an extensive background in international
agriculture, a Ph.D. in international water law, and
a long-standing interest in Canada's water. Yeutter
was closely associated with Richard Nixon during the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' covert mapping of Canada's
northern water resources and a member of the Committee
to Re-elect the President in 1972.
U.S. House Speaker at the time was Jim Wright, a Texas
Democrat and one of the most influential politicians
in the U.S. In his 1966 book, The Coming Water Famine,
Wright noted: "There is to the north of us a stupendous
supply of water...enough to satisfy our predictable
wants for years to come. We need the water. We need
to develop a means of getting that water."
kept assuring Canadians that water wasn't even mentioned
at the trade table, but it wasn't until John Crosbie
took over as Trade Minister that the web of deception
was spun in earnest.
first lie remains a source of confusion to this day:
"Water's not part of the agreement," said Crosbie in
the spring of 1988, "and just to assure Canadians of
that fact, we have introduced an amendment to the free
trade legislation to specifically prohibit bulk water
words. The free trade legislation Crosbie was referring
to was not the free trade agreement, but merely the
domestic enabling legislation that each party to the
international treaty had agreed to enact "to give full
force and effect" to the terms and conditions of the
treaty. Neither country vetted the other's domestic
enabling legislation, and nothing in either country's
domestic enabling legislation changed the terms of the
international trade treaty. Crosbie's "amendment" did
nothing to address the problem.
response, 14 knowledgeable Canadians, including me,
jointly wrote the book Water and Free Trade (Lorimer,
Toronto, 1988), released two weeks before the November
were optimistic. But the rhetoric was heavy and the
boys from Bay Street (the BCNI's Tom d'Aquino and friends)
had lots of money and weren't afraid to lie. So Canadians
were understandably confused. The Tories won the election.
And the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was enacted.
several years later, came NAFTA. Same problems. Same
results. This time, the U.S. chimed in, in the person
of Clayton Yeutter, who made his now infamous contribution
to the discussion:
in Canada's free flowing rivers and lakes," he asserted,
"is not subject to the trade agreements. But, once water
becomes a good of commerce and enters into international
trade, all of the terms of the trade agreement apply,
including national treatment."
Yeutter meant was that, each time water becomes a good
of commerce, all terms of the trade agreement apply
to each export contract so entered into. For example,
trees standing in a forest are not subject to the trade
agreements, but a wooden chair made in Vancouver and
sold to a buyer in Seattle is. If chairs were only manufactured
by the provincial government, and if American buyers
wanted to purchase chairs, the Canadian government couldn't
discriminate against them in favour of a Canadian buyer;
we would have to give the Americans equal access to
the chairs; that's what national treatment is all about.
It's a simple concept that applies equally to water,
particularly so because water licenses (including those
for irrigation) are issued by governments for compensation.
candid statement should have exposed NAFTA's threat
to our water, but instead it spawned the feds' silly
claim, and the equally absurd reassurance that our water
is safe "as long as we don't export the first drop."
truth is that water is "in" the FTA and NAFTA because
it's not "out" (not explicitly exempted, as are raw
logs and certain species of fish from the Maritimes),
and because "water"--all natural water other than sea
water, including ice and snow--appears as Item 22.01.9
of the Harmonized Commodity Coding System of the GATT,
to which the FTA and NAFTA refer for their definition
of "goods." The rights are there, and the tap is open.
In perpetuity. Period.
years ago, a colleague of mine, a lawyer in Alberta,
was told by an executive with one of the large pipeline
construction companies that they were laying two parallel
for?" she asked.
for natural gas and one for water," was the prompt reply.
May, Bill C-6 (An Act to Amend the International Boundary
Waters Treaty Act, the federal government's only response
to the water/trade crisis) received second reading.
When implemented, C-6 will establish water export permits
at the pleasure of the Minister of International Trade,
setting the stage for transcontinental water sharing.
days before the G-8 Summit in Genoa, U.S. President
George W. Bush finally said he wanted to talk about
water. "I look forward to discussing this with the Prime
Minister," he said, adding he would be open to "any
discussions" about a possible continental water pact--along
the lines of the talks now under way between Canada,
the United States and Mexico on energy--to pipe Canadian
water to the parched American southwest.
is only one solution to the water/trade problem, and
that is for the Canadian government to demand an exemption
for water under the goods, services and investment provisions
of NAFTA--and threaten to withdraw from the deal if
we don't get it.
me: the Americans will grant the exemption before they
walk away from NAFTA. But only if we make it their only