Statement Delivered by City Council Member Terry Werner
on October 11, 2003
at the Fair Trade Rally
Thanks to all the previous speakers who represent our interests so well on this very important issue. And thanks to all those involved with organizing this event.
I am a Lincoln City Council Member and I want to briefly address the issue of how NAFTA and other trade agreements take away our city’s ability to govern. These agreements rob us of our autonomy to do what is best for Lincoln. Chapter 11 of the NAFTA agreement provides broad rights to foreign investors. It allows them to seek financial compensation for negative impacts on their businesses caused by our local regulations designed to protect the interests of Lincoln, Nebraska.
I must ask, should cities decide whether or not we want to use our tax dollars to purchase goods made in sweatshops?
Do you want your City Council to make decisions on zoning in our city?
Or do you want the government of Brazil making those decisions?
Do you want your city officials making decisions on our natural resources and small businesses, or do you prefer to give that power to foreign investors?
Do you want foreign governments regulating corporate ownership of land?
I say we want local control. I say that we must protect our environment, our jobs and community by deciding upon our own future.
When the federal government negotiates away our ability to do what is best for Lincoln, then we must stand up and speak out. Our government is not here to protect the interests of multinational corporations, they do just fine on their own. Our government is here to protect your interests and my interests as citizens and to protect our independence.
Many cities have passed resolutions calling upon our national government to "preserve the traditional powers of state and local governments". The National League of Cities has taken a position on this as well. I will end by reading from a City Council Resolution passed by both Austin and El Paso, Texas. It first states many of the things already mentioned and concludes with the following:
"WHEREAS, serious concerns about these agreements have been raised by the National League of Cities, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Association of Counties and the National Association of Attorneys General.
"NOW, BE IT RESOLVED, that Congress and the USTR should preserve the traditional powers of state and local governments as they negotiate and act upon international agreements by:
* protecting state and local governments' legislative power in the scope of investment, services and procurement agreements, and
* where such protection has not been achieved, assuring that such international rules do not deviate from traditional deference to state and local regulatory authority, and
* safeguarding state and local regulation within GATS rules on Domestic Regulation and limiting application of those rules to specific commitments made by countries."
We are a community, not a multinational corporation. Let's take back our sovereignty.
Thank you very much!