Advantage Canada and Trade Deals

Advantage Canada is the “economic plan” released with November’s Economic and Fiscal Update. In reading through it yesterday, I was struck by its statements about a couple of “free trade” agreements.

Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA)

Marc and I demonstrate that there are few tangible examples of trade barriers between provinces and no evidence that such barriers entail significant economic costs. TILMA’s real purpose is to reduce provincial regulations and standards to the lowest common denominator.

The following quote from page 39 of Advantage Canada is a frank admission that the ‘Stronger Economic Union’ agenda is about regulatory harmonization as opposed to genuine trade barriers: “businesses operating across Canada could realize cost savings and expanded markets if regulatory differences across provinces were eliminated.”

Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP)

In recent weeks, supporters have characterized the SPP in terms of intergovernmental co-operation on fairly innocuous issues, while critics have argued that it seeks to harmonize North American regulations to serve corporate interests. The North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), a group of corporate CEOs formed by Harper, Bush and Fox, has presented itself as but one of many organizations engaged in SPP.

The following ‘Policy Commitment’ is from page 86 of Advantage Canada: “Build on our NAFTA advantage through improved border efficiency and increased regulatory convergence through the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America initiative and in consultation with the North American Competitiveness Council and other stakeholders.”

While “convergence” is a softer term than “harmonization,” its basic meaning is the same. Also, the singling-out of the NACC seems to confirm its privileged role in the process.

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