Energy & environment

Ecological survival is incompatible with free trade and investment regimes and global capitalism. The neoliberal economic model assumes endless expansion of production and consumption that a planet with finite natural “resources” simply cannot bear. It externalizes environmental costs and targets environmental laws as barriers to free trade or investment. This unfettered export-oriented economic growth model causes environmental degradation, pollution of water and air systems, rapid depletion of forests, wetlands and fisheries, and the extinction of flora and fauna. It advances the privatization, commodification, buying, selling and trading of “natural resources” often expropriated from Indigenous Peoples and other land-based communities.

Provisions of bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements effectively override national environmental policies in developing countries. For example, the US-Central America FTA overrules specific provisions in Costa Rica’s Biodiversity Law, regarding whether or not foreign bioprospectors need to have legal presence in Costa Rica. Many FTAs serve to aggressively liberalize and deregulate "environmental services" as an area of economic activity for foreign investors in developing countries, as in the case of the US-Jordan FTA.

Closely related to environmental concerns and corporate control and exploitation of natural resources is the increasing use of bilateral free trade and investment agreements to secure access to energy resources. For example, countries like China, Japan, the US and the EU — all major promoters of FTAs — are highly dependent on foreign countries for their energy needs. In its FTA with Brunei, which took effect in July 2008, Japan included a chapter on energy, assuring Tokyo a guaranteed supply of oil and gas. The same was achieved under the Japan-Indonesia FTA (which also came into force in July 2008). Negotiations between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council are also supposed to allow EU ownership of petrochemical companies in the Gulf states. EU officials also view its free trade agreements as ways to access more agrofuel resources.

last update: May 2012

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