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The Progressive Economics Forum

Richardson Out

Obama’s selection of pro-NAFTA politicians as his Chief of Staff, Commerce Secretary, and US Trade Representative worried those of us who hope that he is serious about renegotiating NAFTA.

This afternoon’s news that Bill Richardson has withdrawn reopens the possibility of appointing a NAFTA critic to the Commerce portfolio.

Anyway, hope springs eternal.

Enjoy and share:

Comments

Comment from Stephen Gordon
Time: January 4, 2009, 7:57 pm

I don’t think a US NAFTA critic has Canadian interests in mind. Be careful of what you wish for, especially with stories like this out there:

Obama’s transition team said it is mulling “buy American” provisions for the stimulus package that could favor U.S. companies over foreign competitors.

This is not a game that Canada will do well in.

Comment from Erin Weir
Time: January 4, 2009, 9:28 pm

To the extent that renegotiating NAFTA could pit Canadian economic interests against American economic interests, I agree that US Democrats would not promote Canadian interests.

However, to the far greater extent that renegotiating NAFTA pits citizens’ interests against corporate interests, I think that US Democrats would redress the balance to the benefit of working people in all three countries. Indeed, the changes that Democrats have actually proposed fall into this benevolent category: stronger labour/environmental standards and less latitude for foreign investors to directly challenge public policy (Chapter 11).

In cases where a “Buy American” policy caused the purchase of American as opposed to Canadian products, it would obviously harm Canada. But in cases where it caused the purchase of American products instead of overseas products, it would help Canada. Because manufacturing processes are so highly integrated across the Canada-US border, more demand for American products would increase demand for Canadian products. Indeed, such integration would make it difficult for American policy to discriminate against Canada.

Comment from Stuart Murray
Time: January 5, 2009, 4:16 pm

Well, we have our own “Buy Canadian” campaigns that parallel the “Buy American” campaigns. You should either think they’re both okay or they’re both bad, pick one.

Also, I think Honda’s sales went up last year because they make the best cars. “Ram Tough” is a practical joke on rednecks, and they should get used to the idea that their machinery is inadequate. Any trade policy or industrial policy must accommodate sensible people who want to buy high quality products for the best price.

For me, the progressive trade agenda should be devoted to curtailing Chapter 11 and creating labour and environmental standards. I would also put in a bid for a minimum corporate tax (15%?), which could ultimately affect tax havens in the caribbean as they sign on to trade deals.

Comment from Stephen Gordon
Time: January 6, 2009, 4:41 pm

So Mexican workers – who are paid a fraction of what US and Canadian workers earn – are the enemy against whom the US and Canada should make common cause?

Why is this a progressive point of view?

Comment from travis fast
Time: January 6, 2009, 7:07 pm

Stronger labour rights would make it easier for all workers in NA to make a common cause, no?

Comment from Rod Smelser
Time: January 8, 2009, 4:22 pm

I agree Erin.

What’s needed are higher objective standards in areas of worker health and safety, worker employment and bargaining rights, and environmental protection. Generally speaking, I think trade agreements and agreements on investor rights ought to be separated. One shouldn’t have to give up the right to restrict ownership of plant and equipment, or land and resources, in order to achieve reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods and services.

And surely it’s the height of insincerity for anyone to argue that higher standards are some kind of attack upon low-paid workers. This is clearly the exact opposite of the truth, but given a favourable media climate this kind of Orwellian double-talk can soon become very clever marketing for those whose only real agenda is making the world safe for the rich.

I find it breath-taking that after the Bush years and the softwood lumber actions that people in Canada, especially in the business press, are still putting out the old nostrum that Democrats are protectionists and Republicans are free traders. Sure the Democrats have some Max Baucus types who, besides expressing genuine environmental concerns about some BC actions in the mining sector, are also happy to exclude competitively priced Canadian lumber products. But on the whole, Canada did better under Clinton than Bush.

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