Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Renegotiating NAFTA


Both Democratic candidates have pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, if they reach the White House. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at last night's candidates' debate pledged to renegotiate America's deal with Mexico - and with Canada - to get, as they put it, "fair trade."

What's "fair trade" anyway? Well, according to Obama it means making America's trading partners toe some sort of line on labour and environmental standards. Wait a second, labour standards? What are we supposed to do, scrap our labour standards to scurry into the American abyss? Environmental standards? Well, he's got a point there, we both need to do better on that score.

It's the adjective "fair" that worries me. Americans tend to judge fair by the tilt of the table and they usually like to see it tilting their way. Take a look at the softwood lumber shakedown we've endured these past several years.

I wonder what "fair" means in the context of America's debt crisis? That little problem, an entirely made-in-America brew of wanton spending and profligate borrowing, is coming home to roost and the landing may be hard and bumpy. It's bad enough that world markets, including Canadian, have found themselves duped into holding ginned-up American subprime derivatives. Are we also to become America's free trade whipping boy?

Navigating the coming years with the United States will require a strong Canadian prime minister and not the kind who instinctively drops his pants and bends over the barrel when Washington snaps its fingers - the kind we have now.

10 comments:

foottothefire said...

Not to worry, we're talking the USA here and it'll be a cold day in hell before one of these Democrats will become president

Anonymous said...

So...Liberals wont pick a fight with Mr Harper and go to an election because it would cost alot of them their jobs right now, but, your willing to pick a fight with the US over Free Trade and end up costing alot of Canadians their jobs. I'd say this is typically Liberal but, its not, its typically Liberal over the past 5 years. You cannot get fairer trade with the US fighting them on Free Trade...Chretien couldnt, Martin couldnt and Harper looks just as goofy as the other two. Ask yourself, who needs who more right now? Billg

Lord of Wealth said...

The Democrats have decided they want 99% of oil sands productions and 1/2 our water, mexican labour codes and health insurance to be continent wide.

They probably want our banks to help clean up their mess too

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey Bill. I'm no happier with Dion than you are. That said we get nowhere on free trade by timidity - nowhere. If we don't stand up to them when they demand we renegotiate NAFTA, what would you have us do, simply kneel to their demands?
LoW - our banks are helping to clean up their mess. they did that when they bought subprime derivatives and you can see the measure of that in the bank writedowns.

Anonymous said...

We get no where with timidity and no where with rhetoric either. I've always found it kind of ironic that our socialist safety net and our universal health care systems are funded from business and individual tax's...and considering that about 80% of trade is with the US, well, it seems to me until we have a better plan I'm not sure what Dion/Harper/Iggy/Rae can realistically do about it. 60 Minutes had a great show last week about America's Persuit of Happiness....we in Canada better have plan A, B and C, because if Americans ever decide that family and quality of life is more important that owning things then trade with the US plummets and we suffer, hence plan A,B and C. By the way...word verification is "tugme"....is that for us Cons?

Billg

The Mound of Sound said...

That's pretty funny Bill. Completely inadvertent, I assure you.

rabbit said...

"Renegotiating NAFTA" is a promise easier made than kept. Any attempt to do so in a serious way will run into massive opposition in the U.S., including opposition from many businesses and border states.

There's one overwhelming reason for keeping NAFTA - it's profitable for all sides. Mucking with it will be more difficult than these two star-crossed lovers reckon.

The Mound of Sound said...

"star-crossed lovers" - Outstanding, Bunny!

A citizen of Your Friendly Neighbor to the South said...

When labor unions in the U.S. talk about "fair" trade, they mean fair with respect to the little guy in all countries, not fairness between nations. I think the U.S. already has a pretty good deal under NAFTA. Labor in the U.S., however, has consistently claimed that NAFTA has increased income disparities in all three countries, not just the U.S. If that's true, we all have something to gain. People say Canada has a list of concerns they'd like to raise, as if that's a bad thing. They want more control over their water and their oil. They want control over their health and safety regulations. They want Americans to stop over-consuming and paying for everything in paper rather than real goods. I say, great--let's talk.

Green Assassin brigade said...

Friendly neighbour sounds a lot like a Paulite which I can respect , the political reality will Obama or McCain, neither of which has the balls to their citizens the truth. The problem is equally we can't trust our two most likely winning political parties to negotiate in the best interest of our little guys.

One created Nafta the other swore they would cancel it and did not, corporate lackeys the lot of them.