Time to change or drop North American Free Trade Agreement

If president elect Trump has his way NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) will need to change.

If president elect Trump has his way NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) will need to change so that Canadian beef and softwood lumber in particular will not impact U.S. jobs and key industries.

According to David Orchard, NAFTA is not good for most Canadians, so who does it benefit? Mr. Orchard is a farmer and author who I think does a good job of summarizing how we got to this stage.

For 150 years great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border, Canada soon wouldn’t have a political border. Sir John A called free trade “veiled treason.” A century later, Pierre Elliott Trudeau called the Canada-U. S. FTA “a monstrous swindle.” Will our PM follow his father’s view?

Canada entered a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. in 1988, giving sweeping rights to American corporations to buy up most of the Canadian economy and included a clause that allowed the U.S. a majority of Canada’s energy supplies even if Canada itself went short. Canada also agreed that for “any good” exported to the U.S., the price would be equal to or lower than that charged to Canadians.

Mr. Orchard points out that in previous elections the  people’s verdict to scrap these trade agreements was not honoured and changes seemed to be to our detriment. For example, in 1992, the FTA was expanded into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which contained a provision allowing U.S. and Mexican corporations to sue Canada for any law or regulation that they think will cause them loss or damage, and which they feel breaches the spirit of NAFTA.

These disputes are not heard by Canadian judges, but by special tribunals that operate behind closed doors, using not Canadian law but NAFTA rules. There’s no right of appeal. In the 1993 election an even larger majority voted for parties that wanted to renegotiate or abrogate NAFTA; they got neither. Instead, Canada has been sued 35 times by U.S. corporations, reversed several of its laws, paid out $200 million in NAFTA fines, and faces claims for $6 billion more.

Under NAFTA, Canada  has been giving away a huge and increasing volume of resources across the border, including a record amount of oil at slightly over half the world price, while our standard of living and real wages have declined.

Norway, with less oil than Alberta, voted to stay out of the European Union, had its vote respected, and charges a fair price for its exports. It now has a trillion-dollar surplus, while Canada’s provinces, including oil rich Alberta and Saskatchewan, have record debt and are desperately offering to sell portions of profitable public corporations to pay basic bills.

Iconic Canadian institutions, including our railways, grain, retail, manufacturing and resource companies are moving wholesale into foreign — mostly American — corporate hands.

Maybe it is time to follow Norway’s example and take our chances with no agreement. Our newly elected government should show that it won’t allow itself to be sued and ordered about by foreign corporations, but is accountable to the citizens of a sovereign nation.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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