The investor-state dispute settlement mechanism contained in NAFTA’s chapter 11 grants investors the right to sue foreign governments without first pursuing legal action in the country’s court systems, in order to protect foreign investors from discrimination. Drafters of the 1994 treaty included the provision to protect U.S. and Canadian investors against corruption in Mexican courts.
Critics argue that the mechanism limits governments from enacting policies on legitimate public concerns such as the environment and labour or human rights, and that negotiations are often carried out in secret.
And, yes, I know the header's a bit harsh, Chris. But, that's my opinion. The links out there show that multinational corporations do leverage free-trade language against national governments and will continue to do in the future. They also show that free-trade deals are, more and more, about more than manufacturing jobs. They're about copyright, "creative class" work, finances and services businesses and more.
It behooves nobody to pretend otherwise.