Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

The Tar Sands and NAFTA

Posted January 9, 2009 by    

Tar Sands

Ian Austen of the New York Times had an excellent article Wednesday on oil extraction from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Canada is now the largest oil supplier to the U.S. The article outlines the various environmental concerns of this extremely energy intensive operation, including impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and migratory birds.

One important driver the article doesn't get into is the role of NAFTA in tar sands development, or more specifically the role of NAFTA's Proportionality Clause (see analysis by the Parkland Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives). This clause is so crazy it's hard to believe. It actually requires Canada to make two-thirds of its domestic oil production and 60 percent of its current natural gas production available for export to the U.S. These requirements stay in effect, even if Canada needs these supplies for domestic purposes. There is little question that Canada's NAFTA-burden is contributing to further tar sands development.

Oil extraction from the tar sands illustrates the complicated tangle between free trade agreements and local, national or international efforts to protect the environment and lower carbon use. The global climate talks scheduled for completion in Copenhagen in December could effect future tar sands production. After the November elections, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed a U.S.-Canada climate deal that would exempt the tar sands - perhaps to pre-empt U.S. climate legislation and/or a COP15 agreement. And at the local level, recent efforts to establish a low carbon fuel standard in California,  11 Northeast states and Minnesota could also have repercussions for the tar sands.

IATP has a free news bulletin, Tar Sands Oil Review, if you're interested in following this issue.

While the future of the tar sands has big implications for the environment and trade, it also symbolizes the extreme lengths we continue to take to feed our energy appetite and avoid reducing our energy use.

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