Will NAFTA Survive Obama?
By: Leigh Patrick Sullivan
Oh, to be a fly on the wall on February 19th.
U.S. President Barack Obama will follow custom and make his first official international trip as American leader to Canada to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Harper and Dubya Bush enjoyed a friendship born out of conservative commonality and a shared determination in the War on Terror. With Obama and his Hope and Change Tour â€™09, Canadians are seeing at once a continuing ally in Afghanistan and a new potential adversary in the economic arena.
Both governments have been pushing high-spending, debt-building â€˜stimulus packagesâ€™ that aim to make our problems disappear (I swear just heard someone cough â€˜bullshitâ€™), much to the chagrin of conservatives, Canadian and American alike.
Sadly, on that they agree.
It is the seeming move towards protectionism as a means to shelter the American economy that has Canadians of all political stripes worried. With references to a possible major â€˜Buy Americanâ€™ course of action running rampant, rightwing Canucks like myself are telling anyone who will listen that any change to our trade agreements will not only have a negative impact on both countries, but could also be illegal.
Put directly, the 1988 Canadian â€“ U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which later included Mexico and morphed into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been, in spite of a few bumps, a boon for all involved.
Mulroney, Reagan: Good friends
A brainchild of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan, main purpose of the Free Trade Agreement was to:
* facilitate conditions of fair competition within the free-trade area established by the Agreement;
* liberalize significantly conditions for investment within that free-trade area;
* establish effective procedures for the joint administration of the Agreement and the resolution of disputes;
* lay the foundation for further bilateral and multilateral cooperation to expand and enhance the benefits of the Agreement;
* eliminate barriers to trade in goods and services between Canada and the United States.
Years after its implementation, NAFTA has proven to be an overall success. What is being overlooked is that the deal could actually be used as one a pillar by which to build the solution to the current financial problems.
Instead of continuing with the paranoia of the day that has led to the faulty belief in things like stimulus packages and endless printing of new money, instead of building walls around the American economy and shutting out stable and trustworthy partners, Obama should see the tools he has at his disposal.
If Bush could be blamed for isolating America on foreign policy, anti-NAFTA protectionism would make Obama just as guilty economically.
Iâ€™m sure P.M. Harper will tell the President as such on the 19th.
The Moderate Separatist
The Moderate Separatist