The following are quotes from different Canadian government officials and civil society members on NAFTA.

Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson

“I strongly believe that the growth in protectionist sentiment is somewhat misplaced and irrational. It’s people who are concerned about the loss of jobs over the last 10 years which largely — analytically — has been shown to be driven by technology…To the degree that it’s the result of liberalized trade, it’s more to do with the Asian dynamos like China and India and Vietnam, and countries like that. It’s not NAFTA that is hurting the North American worker. It’s not..In fact, NAFTA is probably the friend of the North American worker because it enables us to achieve a level of efficiency and competitiveness that helps us take on the real competitive threats…When you recognize that 39 out of 50 states have Canada as their number one export market, you start to realize governors and congressmen at the local level have an awful lot at stake, and we need to make sure they understand that.. Will NAFTA get reopened? … I don’t think the risk is zero and you have to plan against potentially damaging but remotely probable risks.”

Source:  Ljunggren, David. “U.S. attacks on NAFTA somewhat irrational: Canada.”  Reuters. April 2nd, 2008.

Blogs/Editorials on NAFTA and Free Trade

NAFTA was not a bad idea when we have a much bigger gap in our dollar but hind sight is 20/20 and NAFTA now is not good for Canada. One major stumbling block for the U.S is the energy we export to them. If they attempted to back out without agreement or negotiations, Canada would have the ability to control the amount exported, which right now is strictly controlled by NAFTA. More than 60 percent of our oil and natural gas goes south. In any oil shortage crisis Canada can’t reduce exports to the U.S. So when the big oil shortage creeps upon us in the not so distant future, the U.S. will enjoy the same flow.

Water is another huge consideration. Within NAFTA our water is a deemed a commodity or good. The U.S. has a huge thirst and they are running out. Some studies predict that a water shortage will be bigger than any energy crisis for them. I’m not sure if we are exporting water at the moment, but one stroke of a pen and we may see lake levels drop at an alarming rate. Not so long ago Canada had to battle for years over the softwood lumber problem. We finally got a deal but at a huge cost and NAFTA should have prevented this problem. I would hazard a guess that whoever ends up in the White House will steer clear of NAFTA. As for me I would like to see the agreement scrapped as Canada is hampered by it and we have grown beyond it’s past benefit.”

Source: Labelle, Thomas. Comment. Calgary Sun. March 6, 2008.}2008/03/06/4932431.php?comments_page=7

Derek H. Burney, chairman of Can-West Ltd. and senior adviser to Ogilvy Renault LLP, was Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993, and was chief of staff to the prime minister during the negotiation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement

…What is evident is that Canada has little reason for panic about the concerns supposedly to be addressed — labour and environmental issues, yet again. If anything, U.S. anxiety about these issues is more likely directed at Mexico, reflecting persistent doubts about levels of enforcement. The challenge will be how to elevate enforcement without infringing on national sovereignty….

Senator Clinton’s particular concern about the dispute-resolution mechanism on foreign investment is ironic. While this provision has aroused indignation among some environmental NGOs in both Canada and the United States, it was inserted in the NAFTA at the express wish of Washington. Investment has traditionally been a top priority for the United States in all trade negotiations, with the emphasis on reducing fetters on U.S. investment in other markets.

Canada has concerns of its own about NAFTA, primarily the reluctance of Washington to abide by dispute-settlement decisions on softwood lumber, actions that undermine what is for Canada one of NAFTA’s major principles — a sentiment no doubt shared by Mexico…

Notwithstanding election rhetoric about NAFTA, the anti-foreign mood in the United States should be a matter of concern for Canadians. The single biggest threat to Canadian prosperity would be a serious outbreak of U.S. protectionism…To combat the US protectionist mood and defend our own interests, Canada should look beyond NAFTA. We can address border issues with technologies, procedures and possibly new institutions that would give greater assurance of security while facilitating smoother and more efficient movement of goods, services and people.

We could move dramatically to harmonize a host of standards and regulations that currently serve no useful purpose other than to impede efficiency and productivity.

We should tackle the energy and environmental nexus jointly, with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would be implemented in a manner that does not jeopardize responsible development and delivery of our substantial energy resource. We could also plan together a massive expansion of power transmission facilities in North America, embracing the best technologies from our respective private sectors.

We should also be ready to explore new procedures for defence and security co-operation in North America, including for the Arctic…

Source: Burney, Derek. “Beyond NAFTA.” National Post. April 07, 2008.

Jack M. Mintz, Professor of Public Policy, University of Calgary

Canadians have been free traders going back to the days of our lucrative fur trade. We should continue our tradition of ensuring open borders for trade as we have done under NAFTA. The challenge is to overcome protectionist sentiment in the United States and make sure we continue to benefit from trade with both the U.S. and other major partners. As a resource-rich country, we should press strongly our competitive advantages.”

Source: Mintz, Jack. “Don’t blame NAFTA for U.S. job losses.” National Post. April 04, 2008

NAFTA has also been used to weaken Canada’s sovereignty and promote its economic assimilation by the United States. It has led to greater pressure on Canada and Mexico to conform to U.S. foreign policy objectives. Most alarmingly, the three governments are bent on extending this failed model to other countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean in the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Before leaping into that abyss, citizens and policy-makers throughout the hemisphere should stop and look at the concrete results of this trilateral trade agreement.

On NAFTA’s 10th anniversary, researchers based in all three countries have assessed the agreement’s consequences and found them to be overwhelmingly negative.”

Source: “Lessons From NAFTA The High Cost of “Free Trade.” Hemispheric Social Alliance. November 18, 2008.


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