So What The Hell Is The Washington Tribute Tax?

Posted on Sunday, October 16 at 12:11 by robertjb
“Tribute” is a concept that goes back to the time of imperial Rome. At that time Rome had conquered most of the known world and the conquered peoples under the empire were required to pay tribute to Rome. This might be paid in currency, grain, slaves, soldiers--according to the needs of the empire. Now tribute taxes are paid in more subtle and insidious ways. Canada, quite simply, is in a bit of a pickle. The current regime in Washington is demanding a very high tribute; Ottawa in turn is a little too willing to pay this excessive tax in all its manifestations. The Washington Tribute Tax, in other words, is a tax on Canadian sovereignty which ultimately must be defied. Auditing this tax is a proactive undertaking. We recognize that Canada and the US have a profound and mutually beneficial trading relationship that must be fostered. The two countries while having a huge disproportion in population and power share the same continent, cherish democratic values and the capitalist system. While in outward appearance we appear very similar we are very different, and recent polls show a strong divergence between Canadian and American values –for of course, countries are not just defined by commercial transactions; something too often forgotten. In the October 15th edition of The Globe and Mail, Thomas D’Aquino, President to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (formerly the Business Council on National Issues) on the softwood lumber issue is quoted: It has raised serious concerns among business people in this country. The smart people know that linking a 2% problem to a 98% solution is pretty silly--and, frankly, juvenile. Even though Mr. D’Aquino is often quoted on issues of national importance, we must remind ourselves that he is no more than a paid lobbyist. His statement slanders the truth as this is much more than a “2% problem” as it goes to the very essence of NAFTA from a Canadian perspective. The original FTA was sold to Canadians on the basis that we had to have secure access to the US market- which we largely already had( prior to the signing of the FTA 86% of our trade with the US was already free trade.) Secondly, we had to overcome US protectionism which has never been achieved and we signed the agreement knowing full well US trade law would still prevail. Canadian negotiators urgently wanted a dispute settling mechanism which US slyly negotiators resisted. To obtain the dispute settling mechanism-the NAFTA tribunals- Canada gave major concessions. Now on the softwood lumber issue the ruling has been in Canada’s favour and the US is defying this ruling. In spite of Mr. D’Aquino's claim this is much more than a two per cent problem. It goes to the very essence of the NAFTA agreement-it is a deal breaker-and the really smart people know it. Unless the issue is dealt with aggressively and successfully it paves the way for further breaches of the agreement. It is an ominous precedent. Mr. D’ Aquino of all people should know that business is the orderly contractual practice of commerce- the purported foundation of the agreement - and a deal is a deal! In the same article he goes on to say: "Some of the language I have heard here in recent days suggests to me that some people would be better off placed in Hugo Chavez’s government than here." Mr. D’Aquino’s peevish comment is again off the mark. Chavez as the president of Venezuela has made it abundantly clear, and rightly so, to the US that he will not tolerate the subversion of his government or meddling in Venezuelan affairs; though he is quite willing to have a vigorous trading relationship with the US including oil exports. In other words Chavez refuses to pay the WTT-the Washington Tribute Tax--and Ottawa should draw a similar line in the sand. Ironically, while Washington claims to be a champion of global democracy it is showing a wanton disregard for the sovereignty of other nations. D’Aquino and his esteemed council define Canada as no more than a commercial transaction and it is much more than that. Theirs is a parochial view and it must be seen as such. They are too willing to pay a ruinous WTT in praise of the almighty dollar. [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 17, 2005]

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