Interest groups, corporations and NAFTA

INDEPENDENT MEDIA
by Marianela Ramos Capelo

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is being renegotiated with little to no transparency at the expense of those who will feel its effects the most: everyday citizens. Interest groups and corporations are “fishing in troubled waters,” scrambling to take advantage of this opacity to shape the agreement to their benefit. Here are some ways in which everyday Canadians would feel the effects of this closed-doors, renegotiated NAFTA. It doesn’t look pretty.

1 – Your access to affordable medicine would be endangered

While it is copyright that usually keeps us occupied at OpenMedia, the draconian expanse of intellectual property policies affects other aspects of our lives, too. The cost of medicine is one of the clearest examples of the impacts of outdated patent and intellectual property policies. Pharmaceutical corporations are given a period of time in which they have the exclusive rights to sell the product they developed. During this time, they can make up for the cost of the expensive processes of research and development of their product. After that period expires, the patented formula is released for other laboratories to produce and release medicines, usually at a lower price. In a nutshell, this is how we get the more affordable “generic” or “non-brand” versions of drugs.

NAFTA is threatening this process. Big Pharma is seeking to expand the periods of exclusive rights to sell medications. These legal monopolies have made the headlines for their nefarious price-gouging practices in the States and there is no doubt big corporations will try to expand these practices into Canada. In other words, your access to affordable medication in Canada could disappear or be drastically reduced under NAFTA.

2 – Canada’s Internet would be subject to extrajudicial blocking systems

The Internet as we know it in Canada is under threat. This sounds alarming, but it is not a far-fetched argument. Bell Canada has openly stated it wants to introduce extrajudicial website blocking systems into the policies being discussed at the NAFTA renegotiations.

What does this mean for the average Canadian? Bell has suggested the creation of a “blacklist” of websites and a third-party body to monitor the blocking of blacklisted sites without due process. Bell takes it a step further by requesting these blocking systems be accompanied by criminal provisions, which might capture people who engage in legal, fair and normal use.

Imagine being sent to court for exercising your right to free speech? If this seems excessive to you, Canadians can speak out at act.openmedia.org/bellNAFTA to stop this reckless proposal.

These are only two ways in which corporations, interest groups and even countries are taking advantage of the lack of transparency surrounding NAFTA to bend the rules in their favour.

Learn more and take action at openmedia.org/freetradefreeinternet

Follow www.openmedia.org, www.facebook.com/openmediaorg and www.twitter.com/openmediaorg to stay up to date in the fight to keep the Internet safe from predatory trade agreements.

Marianela Ramos Capelo is a graphic designer and part of the communications team at OpenMedia, a community based organization that works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance free. openmedia.org

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