The Akan people have a saying that translates as “If you don’t know what death looks like, take a look at a sleeping person”. Ghana’s Ministers for Agriculture, the Minister for Justice and MPs will do well to read this article Happily ever NAFTA: New trade pact would boost corporations and harm environmentgrist.org. If pressed for time, they should ponder these paragraphs:
“…Welcome to NAFTA’s unexpected environmental legacy. Chapter 11 is not well known in the U.S. — its tribunals are secret, and Canada and Mexico are the countries that get sued the most under it. But NAFTA was always meant to be a template for other trade agreements, and since its mid-’90s enactment it has become one. As NAFTA’s offspring have multiplied around the world, so have lawsuits like Lone Pine’s, where corporations seek damages from countries whose environmental regulations affect their ability to do business.
There have been more than 500 cases brought against 95 governments around the world, according to Ilana Solomon, director of the Responsible Trade Program for the Sierra Club. Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power plants is being challenged by the Swedish company Vattenfall. Uruguay’s move to add warning labels to cigarette packages has prompted a suit from Philip Morris.
If the 1890s [sic]were about setting a legal precedent that gave corporations the same rights as people, the 1990s were about adding powers that brought them more in line with nation states. Today, increasingly, corporations in one country get to tell governments in another country what to do…”
In the Plant Breeders’ Bill before Parliament, Clause 23 is perhaps the most outrageous clause introduced to Parliament since the 6th of March 1957. The offending Clause is easy to understand. Whereas, the Constitution of Ghana makes even the Human Rights of citizens subject to the laws of Ghana, the Plant Breeders’ right is placed over and above that of the state. Clause 23 reads:
“23 Measures regulating commerce.
A plant breeder right shall be independent of any measure taken by the Republic to regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material.”
The caution in the Akan proverb should give them cause to pause and examine the legacy of NAFTA for Canada and Mexico. And the consequences for 95 other countries, who gave legal carte blanche to multinational companies who now operate above and beyond the laws of those countries. Are these trading partners’ intentions benign?
The Mahama Administration in collaboration with Parliament are leading Ghana into a similar abyss, with Clause 23! As if we don’t have enough judgement debts already! The least they can do is to delete that clause from the Bill as we petitioned. Otherwise they will be sparking the engine of the judgement debt-making machine. We need mass public awareness and participation in such an important and far-reaching decision.
Nana Ama Amamoo
Director, Research and Information Department,
Food Sovereignty Ghana