Winnipeg Free Press, Friday, August 26th, 2005
All show and no go on NAFTA
by Frances Russell
DON'T blame the Americans for their refusal to
respect Canada's latest -- and penultimate -- softwood
lumber victory under the North American Free Trade
Blame the Canadians, especially former prime minister
Brian Mulroney and his Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
negotiators, the very same people that are now screaming
And don't trust the Liberal government. Its bluster
is all show and no go.
Last week, Mr. Mulroney's free trade negotiators --
Derek Burney, Pat Carney, Allan Gotleib, Simon Reisman
and Gordon Ritchie -- fulminated against the Americans'
cavalier rejection of the NAFTA extraordinary challenges
"Schoolyard bully," snapped Mr. Burney, Mr.
Mulroney's chief of staff. "Jackboot negotiators,"
seethed Ms. Carney, Mr. Mulroney's international trade
minister. "When you're dealing with a bully, and the
bully punches you, you should punch him back," fumed Mr.
Ritchie, the deputy chief free trade negotiator.
Brian Mulroney promised Canadians "secure access" to
the U.S. market. Loss of sovereignty warnings were
The lie is that secure access never existed. Since
1989, Canada has been ruled extra-territorially by
American trade law.
Technically, the trade negotiators and the Liberals
are right -- the U.S. is acting illegally by rejecting
the panel decision. But what neither admits is that
under FTA/NAFTA, the U.S. merely had to amend its trade
law to keep doing what it's doing legally.
The Bush administration knows it can act illegally
because Canada won't bail out of NAFTA -- ever.
Now that the secure access lie is outed, Canada's
most dedicated and articulate FTA/NAFTA opponents are
urging Canadians to abrogate it and return to trading
with the U.S. under international trade law.
"Chasing the utopian dream of secure access to the
U.S. economy has devastated our livestock industry, led
to almost total U.S. ownership of our meat-packing
capacity and to repeated U.S. trade challenges and
unprecedented tariffs on our grain and lumber, seen
close to 20,000 Canadian companies (including the
ownership of entire industries) move into U.S. hands in
the last two decades and left us holding a bag of ashes
instead of reaping the rewards of our abundant energy
supplies," David Orchard writes in an article carried by
several CanWest Global newspapers last week.
While the U.S. Congress legislates to ensure not one
of its oil companies falls into foreign hands and
countries around the world scramble to secure scarce
energy supplies, "Canadians are treated to an ongoing
mantra about how we should be pleased that foreigners
are buying up our energy industry and reserves," Mr.
The Canadian government divested us of PetroCanada at
firesale prices. Shares now trading at $100 went first
for $10, then $13, $20 and last fall, $64.50.
A Texas company has just bought Terasen Inc., B.C.'s
largest natural gas distributor and western Canada's
biggest private-sector provider of water services. "All
of Terasen's pipelines, refineries, oil, gas and water
operations are included in the deal, essentially
stripping B.C. of domestic control of its energy
supplies," the Saskatchewan farmer and former
Progressive Conservative leadership contender writes.
In a second article published this week in the Free
Press, Mr. Orchard and retired senior federal trade
negotiator Mel Clark say "Canada does not have to give
up ownership of its forests, its industries, its
institutions" to end U.S. trade harassment.
"Canada can, with six months notice, withdraw from
these agreements without penalty and without
conditions." Canada would then revert to genuine
rules-based trade with the U.S. under the global trade
law of the General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade, now
the World Trade Organization.
Under GATT/WTO and prior to the Mulroney government,
"the U.S. was never able to levy a countervailing or
anti-dumping duty on our exports of lumber," Mr. Clark
and Mr. Orchard write.
"During those four decades, Canada traded profitably,
our standard of living rose, Canada won almost all its
trade disputes with the U.S. -- and Washington abided by
NAFTA's "essence cedes vital government powers to the
U.S. and the private sector that were used to build an
independent Canada." Rather than give Canada secure U.S.
market access, FTA/NAFTA "unleashed the full force of
U.S. protectionism" against us.
By abrogating it and returning to GATT/WTO, Canada
would recover the $5 billion in illegal U.S. lumber
tariffs and halt U.S. agribusiness's ongoing efforts to
abolish the Canadian Wheat Board and seize control of
Canada's grain trade.
More importantly, Mr. Clark and Mr. Orchard say, "all
of the intolerable NAFTA rights U.S. companies now have
over Canada -- to sue the Canadian government, to
overturn Canadian laws, to control our exports and
energy prices -- would disappear. Canada would regain
its status as an independent nation."
It won't happen. The anti-American rhetoric of the
Mulroney trade team and the Liberal cabinet is cynical
politics. Deep Integration continues apace.
Frances Russell is a senior national affairs
columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.