Axis of Logic
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The View from Canada
NAFTA and Harper
By Jim Miles | Axis of Logic
Submitted by Author
Sunday, Oct 29, 2017

Miles Report No. 92 - NAFTA and Harper

I have not really been disturbed about the ongoing lack of progress with the U.S. initiated NAFTA negotiations as - for once - Canada, at least superficially - appeared to be making very reasonable negotiating positions.  Unfortunately, the Republican shill Stephen Harper had to step into the mix and essentially apply his right wing neocon brand to support the U.S. While I generally disagree with Canada’s foreign policy as it basically follows and in some pronouncements leads the U.S. imperial policy, Canada’s stance on NAFTA has so far been reasonably progressive.

Ironically, Harper outlined the more progressive Canadian agenda quite clearly in his complaint saying,
"Did anyone really think that the Liberals could somehow force the Trump administration into enacting their agenda — union power, climate change, aboriginal claims, gender issues? But while the Canadian government was doing that, the Americans have been laying down their real demands."
As indicated by Chrystia Freeland, whom I support on this comment, “capitulation is not a negotiating strategy.” I fear, however, that capitulation might be the end result - a fear mainly based on Canada’s historic role as supporter of U.S. imperial intentions politically and militarily. Certainly there are exceptions: maintaining diplomatic relations with Cuba; recognizing Communist China’s government a decade before the U.S.; not participating in the war against Iraq. But on the current big picture issues, with our economy tied majoritarily into that of the U.S., and with our foreign policies aligning fully with the Washington consensus concerning Russia, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia among others, capitulation might be the grand finale.

Historical NAFTA 
I was never a supporter of NAFTA in the first place, and as much as the majority of Canadians were against it, and while the Chretien Liberals campaigned against it and then allowed it to happen (follow the money, the big money), it became the cornerstone of Canada’s free trade stance.

But really, it has nothing to do with ‘free’ trade. It is all about corporate trade, the ability of corporations to cross sovereign boundaries - and worst of all, to give corporations the right to sue governments for even future supposed loss of revenues due to sovereign laws impinging on their freedom to act however they wanted to earn money. After all, that is what corporations are designed purposely for.

The lack of freedom mainly concerns labour, the environment, aboriginal rights, gender equity, workers health and safety and ability to move across borders (except perhaps as indentured servants doing the dirty work of our capitalist society that does not want to get its hands messy while picking fruit and washing toilets.) It is about time that trade negotiations do involve these issues.  After all, Mr. Trudeau, it is 2017.

Mexico has suffered under NAFTA. Certainly lots of manufacturing work went to the maquiladora, but that was in part because of the huge U.S. government subsidized corn crops flooding the Mexican market, forcing the agricultural workers off their farms and into unemployment, where lo and behold, they could work in substandard conditions for substandard pay for many U.S.corporations.

Canada may not have suffered, but from what I have read we certainly have not benefited greatly, other than to tie ourselves way too strongly into U.S. corporate complexes.

So what if Trump did shut down NAFTA? In my mind, that would be the best outcome without having the provisions decried by Harper put into place.

Certainly the auto manufacturing centres in Ontario would suffer - temporarily. On the other hand, there are a lot of other automobile manufacturers who would probably be glad to take over the manufacturing positions of U.S. automakers - Toyota, Suzuki, Nissan, Honda, Kawasaki, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Kia, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, BMW, Porsche, Audi and on - there is no shortage of automakers who could establish plants in Canada as guided by Canada’s environmental laws, workers rights - union rights, determined also by a Canadian tariff policy favoring domestic manufacturing over U.S. imports. 

The latter of course is also a fair trade statement in particular considering the belligerence of the government funded Boeing corporation and its demands for excessive tariffs against Bombardier. That situation also reflects the insanity of the MAGA campaign, wherein other countries do not count at all in U.S. perspectives, but only the benefit of the domestic market.

Softwood lumber dispute?  It is outside NAFTA at any rate, and while it can be used as a ‘bargaining chip’ U.S. house builders, as always, would find their costs rising without Canada’s imports. Dairy quotas? Are we to disband a well reasoned system in order that U.S. agricultural corporations can buy up excess U.S. production and flood our markets with a product that is GMO friendly, BHG friendly, Monsanto friendly and who knows how else friendly?  

The real NAFTA
If the U.S. establishes their way, if Canada capitulates on the core issues as outlined by Harper - union power, climate change, aboriginal claims, gender issues - then we may as well campaign to become the 51st state (now that would please Harper immensely). Trump is a grandiose narcissistic psychopath and his demeanor enables the U.S.’ attitude of our way or no way. Canada should choose ‘no way’ if our reasonable stances are rejected. 

Yes, there would be some transitory difficulties, and the Tories would come out gunning about the Liberal’s failure to successfully negotiate a new treaty, but then the rest of the world in our globalized age becomes our new market.

If the U.S. tendency to unilaterally rip up international agreements remains (Iran nuclear deal, nuclear arms limitations vis a vis Russia, the TPP) their proffered manner of acting, then no future agreement would be worth the ink it is printed with anyway. Even if Canada successfully negotiates a generally good agreement with provisions as indicated, more than likely, if the Trump attitude remains, chances are the agreement would be unilaterally abrogated whenever it suited the U.S. anyway. 

Freeland is right, capitulation is not a negotiating strategy - it should also not be the result.