Vive Le Canada

Deep Integration Blues
Date: Thursday, January 12 2006

Deep Integration Blues
Cross-posted to the BlogsCanada E-Group Election Blog

Part of the Conservative Party platform (pdf) specifically mentions NAFTA and suggests that a Conservative government would move us further towards what has often been called "deep integration" with the United States.

Enhance our NAFTA relationship with the United States by moving towards harmonized tariffs, eliminating rules of origin, and moving beyond trade to pursue enhanced common labour, environmental, and security standards.

From time to time I've seen people point to one or another economic indicator as proof that the NAFTA is "working," which I take to mean that we're better off with it than without it. But I think that oversimplifies the matter since it doesn't take into account the fact that the treaty could have been written differently or, in its absence, we might have had more limited agreements that yielded essentially the same benefits without the weakening of our sovereignty.

And it's the weakening of our sovereignty that bothers me about the NAFTA and about the possibility of extending that relationship without addressing that issue. A while back Ian Welsh wrote a good post that summarizes the effects of Chapter 11 of the agreement, which is the particular section I'm referring to. Ian aptly titled his post The Right to Profit and discusses the way Chapter 11 puts the protection of investors and their right to profit above the ability of governments to make decisions for the benefit of the public interest. While Canada has been on the losing end of Chapter 11 cases in the past, this is something Americans appear to have figured out only recently.

The subject came up briefly in the English-language leaders debate when Jack Layton indicated a willingness to challenge this aspect of the treaty. In his rebuttal, Stephen Harper raised a straw man by equating Layton's position with trashing the whole agreement. In the absence of any other evidence I have to assume that Harper has no problem with Chapter 11 and its ramifications.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 12, 2006]

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