Canada-US Free Trade at 20
The October issue of Policy Options from IRPP is devoted to free trade at 20 – now that we are 20 years on from the signing of the FTA with the US.Â Â http://www.irpp.org/po/index.htm
With one modest exception, the articles are all written by pro free traders – including key architects of the deal like Derek Burney, Stanley Hartt, Charles McMillan, Michael Hart and Bill Dymond. Cynics might think this reflects the editorship of Policy Options by L.Ian MacDonald, Mulroney’s former press secretary. (Mulroney’s own thoughts from his book are included as well.)
This issue is so one-sided that the magazine should be re-named Policy Option (singular.)j I remember the 10th and 15th anniversaries when Policy Options actually asked critics like myself to comment as well.
Had I been invited to contribute, I might have reflected on our rapid and swift reversion to resource-led development (vsÂ the view that FTA amounted to a market driven industrial strategy); the clearly evident downward harmonization of our social programsÂ and public services to US levels (or even below US levels in the case of income transfers); the folly of attaching our national economic fate to dwindling US fortunes; and the evident capitulation of the gang writing this issue toÂ the needs of US Empire. The ongoing Deep Integration/SPP project reflects the manifest failure of the FTA and NAFTA to secure Canadian sovereignty while opening the border – the avowed aim of the exercise in the first place.Â After 20 years the border is “thicker” than ever in terms of our ability to equally access the US market (energy excepted), and the US demands for granting access (co-operation on the ‘security agenda’) are more strident than ever.
I hasten to add that we have to think through where we go from where we are today, not where we were 20 years ago. But regaining energy independence and greater policy latitude from the US and lessening dependence on the US market still strike me as reasonable goals.
There is one good piece in this Policy Options, by the iconoclastic Tom Courchene. He’s again calling for a fixed exchange rate or monetary union with the US which he sees as more necessary than ever if we are to accomodate a booming resource economy and a struggling advanced industrial economy within the same small national economic space.Â I was always convinced of the need to maintain monetary policy independence, but one can’t help but reflect that it has mainly been used to maintain a tougher inflation target than the Federal Reserve. Courchene’s key point is that continental integration in a new global context has given us a badly over-valued exchange rate, and that we risk repeatign the job carnage of the early years of the FTA.Â At least he recognizes that all is not well as the FTA turns twenty.