Canada after NAFTA

Maybe it’s the West coast air, but I have found myself wanting to buy local. I buy BC fruit and veg, BC wine and beer, I avoid corporate restaurants and business as much as possible. Part of this is because in Greece we weren’t inundated with McDonalds and Starbucks, I barely recognized a single logo, it was amazing. Part of it is because NAFTA is driving me nuts, I’m less “buy Canadian” and more “buy anything but American.”

The NAFTA renegotiation has entered its fourth round of talks. And they aren’t going well. I’m no longer certain that is a bad thing though. The more I read about the negotiations, the history, and effects of NAFTA the more I think it might not be such a bad thing if NAFTA were to die an ignominious death. With the demands from the Trump administration I wonder if the negative impact from an agreement would outweigh the positive.

The US has finally started to act like a superpower, by that I mean a belligerent bully who knows that it can use force to get its way. Previously the US baffled political theory by occasionally working on building consensus. Demands and obstinacy was often reserved for rivals and enemies, apparently now allies are valid targets. Even if Canada and Mexico can remove some of  the “poison pills” of the US demands the new NAFTA will not be great for us. Because NAFTA was a compromise between three countries it has been an easy target for President Trump, because everyone had to give a little.

I keep reading about the bad effects of NAFTA for Canada, the loss of sales for vineyards and breweries, the weakening of regulations regarding the environment and worker protection (thanks to Article XI), wage suppression, US subsidized farming harmed other agriculture industries, and depending how far down the rabbit hole you go there are more. And the only real pro has been increased trade. Now I’m not naive about this, Canada relies on trade its the bedrock of our economy, but…

When ever the Canadian government defends NAFTA it’s about the auto industry, the one that we bailed out and was supposed to keep jobs in Canada. Also the one that as soon as Harper sold the government held shares of (at a significantly reduced price, thank you Harper) pulled jobs out of Canada. The auto industry isn’t doing any favours for Canada, and if President Trump has his way they will significantly be more US focused.

I keep saying Canada here but lets be honest, I mean Ontario. In BC it’s hard to see any benefit from NAFTA, hell I can expand that to the West in general probably, hell I can probably also include the Maritimes and Newfoundland in there as well, hell I could probably also include Quebec.

BC’s industries, forestry (not included in NAFTA), dairy products (protected by the government, but a new revised NAFTA would like less protection), wineries, breweries, and distilleries (nearly impossible to sell to the US because of prohibition era laws, but NAFTA fantastically opened up Canada to US companies, hurting ours). The US is the top purchaser of BC goods (by goods I don’t mean we make anything, no we send raw resources and buy finished goods, because mercantilism yeah!).

Hey how about we make things from our resources?  Let’s invest in innovation and promote creation. Let’s refine our own oil, we could ship it out east where it can create jobs in the Maritimes and boost their economy and there won’t be any of the risk of earthquakes, avalanches, shoals that there are in BC, oh wait…

As for NAFTA being tariff free? Just look at Bombardier. 300% (I’ll just let that number speak for itself). If we are already getting tariffed on our goods because we are subsidizing industries, the same way the US is, the hell with it lets subsidized more.

This whole free trade deal has gone bitter let it die, and lets look at it again in ten years under a new administration, hopefully at that time Canada can bring more weight to the table. Since NAFTA was signed Canada has negotiated many free trade agreements , perhaps its time we start using them.

 

PS. After posting this, the US demanded that Canada open up over 30% of the dairy market, 10 times the amount that was begrudgingly agreed to in the TPP. I’ve seen this before, it happened to Jamaica when they needed an IMF loan. It absolutely destroyed local industry. It’s clear that the US has started to view Canada as a tributary.

Referendums

Maybe it’s the Canadian in me but referendums get me excited. Two hopeful nation-states have voted, two have voted yes, and both are considered illegal.

When I hear about the legality of an independence referendum I can’t help but roll my eyes. Iraqi and Spanish politicians have decried the results of the referendums because their constitutions do not allow for secession. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single constitution that does allow for the breakup of a country, that’s the whole indivisible thing. Nobody want’s to write into the DNA of a state a self destruct button, that would be foolish. Facetiousness aside, it is an intriguing issue.

Kurdistan

The Kurds without a doubt (and all politics aside) should have a state. They are a nation with a defined self, a region with borders, and are the authoritative military power within these borders. Unfortunately for them, all the chips are laid against them. Kirkuk has vast oil wealth that Iraq depends on, and the Kurds are spread over four countries, two of which are quite powerful, and they have no great power backer.

That last one is the real kicker. Greece needed Great Britain, France, and Russia to intervene militarily to ensure its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Kurdistan has Canada, reluctantly and fading fast.

In the mire of the Middle East Canada attached itself to the Kurds to defeat Daesh, not at a glance a bad thing. Canada has a small army, but our special forces are quietly renowned and we sent the Peshmerga our special forces. On training mission to be sure (Another phrase that has me rolling my eyes). Canadian forces are doing hands on training, as in side by side on the front lines. I was continually surprised no one called this out, until somehow one of our “trainers” broke a sniper record and there was a collective “oh.” That is all beside the point now. Canada is responsible for creating a highly trained and effective militia among a people that have a long standing desire for independence.

One particularly awkward aspect of this is that our ally Turkey does not get along with the Kurds. Another is that it could create (continue?) a civil war in Iraq at a point when Daesh is weakening. This could be one of  those actions that in a decade we look back and go “oops.”

I think no matter what the international community says the Kurds will push forward with their independence. This could be their best chance at brokering independence. The region is stabilizing a bit, but not enough that the Peshmerga aren’t needed to fight. They have not unilaterally declared independence, instead they want to barter with Iraq. This would probably need to involve a sharing of the oil fields for Iraq to even remotely agree, but who knows what could make Iran or Turkey agree.

Everyone knows that the Kurds want independence. This referendum creates a bit of legitimacy and could be an appeal to Western populations who are not concerned with the geopolitics of the Middle East and simply see people who want to control their destiny.

Catalonia

Unlike the Kurds, Catalans at one point were independent. It’s been nine hundred odd years but still. I know relatively little about this movement except that it has a long history. I don’t even know if there is a strategic reason for Spain to have Catalonia. I think it is simply to stop Spain from losing bits and pieces. Aragon, Basque, Valencia, and Galicia are autonomous from the central government and Catalonia could set a precedent that Spain does not want.

The referendum here is more of a problem than the Kurdish one. For one, only about 40% of people voted, I don’t care that 90% percent of these voted for independence, 40% is too small a number to break up a country (Ahh my Canada is coming out, show me a clear majority).  This number without a doubt is affected by the negative actions of the Spanish police forces at polling stations.

While I understand not wanting your country to break up (we love you Quebec), it isn’t good for anyone to hold the territory of unwilling citizens, that is a path to violence and bitterness. I think the UK did it right with the Scottish referendum, set the date and let the campaigning begin. At least there is an understanding then. You can bet if the Catalan vote came back in the negative the government would want to stand by it.

Instead of forcing the state on people a government should convince people why it is good for them to be part of something greater. When the ballots are counted we know the will of the people and should stand by it.