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Can NAFTA be so interesting?

February 20, 2004

June Casagrande

Anyone who thinks that the North American Free Trade Agreement and

the World Trade Organization agreement are just about trade could

learn a thing or two from Lori Wallach. What they'd learn could shock

them.

That's just fine by Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global

Trade Watch, who is the first in this year's Distinguished Speakers

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Lecture Series

"Everyone needs to know about this stuff," Wallace said in a

telephone interview on Thursday. "It's affecting all our lives. ...

These agreements aren't just about whether you can have a quota or a

tariff on meat but whether you can inspect the meat. It's about

whether you're allowed to have pesticide standards on imported

produce."

One of the more startling examples she will discuss in her talk

today and Saturday at the Newport Beach Public Library is the case of

a Canadian firm named Methanex, which is suing the federal government

for three-quarters of a billion dollars over California's decision to

phase out the gasoline additive MTBE.

"Where are they suing them? Would a U.S. court hear a case like

that?" Wallach said. "No way. They're suing in a secret NAFTA

tribunal."

Wallach is the first in a series of experts who once again are

causing the Distinguished Speakers series to live up to its name. In

March, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt will talk on

environmental policy and law. In April, General Anthony Zinni will

speak on the American military. And former U.N. Ambassador and Nancy

Soderberg will speak on foreign policy in May.

"We like to find speakers who challenge people to think, who

stimulate debate," said Jacquelyn Beauregard Dillman, co-chairwoman

of the lecture series. "We're very excited about this year's

speakers."

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