Friday, February 3, 2017

Canadian PM Trudeau says he is will to renegotiate NAFTA with Trump

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that he had a brief but good phone call with president-elect Donald Trump. Trudeau said that Trump "expressed warmth" towards Canada.

Trudeau said he congratulated Trump on his becoming president and expressed his willingness to discuss NAFTA with the Trump administration. Trudeau also extended an invitation to visit Canada.Trudeau said of the phone call: "It was a strong beginning to what will be a constructive relationship".
During his election campaign, Trump had stressed that he would renegotiate trade agreements to get a better deal for Americans. He has already signed an executive order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Obama had favored but was unable to have ratified in Congress. Trump also criticized NAFTA as a bad deal for America that needed to be renegotiated or dropped altogether. When reporters asked Trudeau what he hoped to gain by agreeing to reopen NAFTA before Trump had even asked to do so he said: “If Americans want to talk about NAFTA, I’m happy to talk about it." Trudeau said that the U.S. and Canada would work together constructively on renegotiating NAFTA as that is what people expect.
Canadian critics of the NAFTA agreement see renegotiation as an opportunity to reform the agreement. The Council of Canadians has always been critical of the agreement. The group even lists five main reasons why it thinks NAFTA should be renegotiated. Maude Barlow head of the Council has been actively tweeting about the renegotiations. A sample tweet: "NAFTA renegotiation must remove Chapter 11 that gives corporations the right to sue governments." Trump claims that he wants to open up NAFTA to create a better deal for Americans. Just as certainly, Canadians and Mexicans will be trying to get a better deal for them. The deal is in the interests of giant global corporations many with headquarters in the U.S. They may be quite unhappy about any attempt to benefit Americans which threatens their profits. Canadians and Mexicans may also be unwilling to accept any changes that hurt their citizens.
NAFTA went into effect on January 1 1994. There was considerable opposition in all three countries at the time. It is the largest agreement of its kind in the world. Critics point to NAFTA as helping to increase the profits of multinational corporations, and causing an increase in inequality in North America. They claim that NAFTA weakened labor rights and environmental protections.
Rabble claims that since 2004 500,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Canada many of which were well-paid, permanent, and unionized. A Rabble article argues that Trump changes will not help reform NAFTA in the interest of workers:People should be angry that NAFTA has served the interest of multinational corporations and pushes policies of deregulation and privatization. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and poorest people. People in all three countries should be under no illusion about Trump's rhetoric of renegotiating NAFTA, which seeks to pit workers against workers while giving tax-dodging big businesses more tax breaks, benefiting the corporate elites in the U.S. and further entrenching economic inequality.In part, Trump won the election because his plans to renegotiate NAFTA appealed to workers in rust-belt areas who were hurt by the terms of the deal. If Trump does nothing to improve their condition they may soon turn against him. However, so far Trump's team is filled with billionaires and people from Wall Street of the very type that he has constantly criticized. It will be interesting to see how Trump manages to change NAFTA in the interests of U.S. workers rather than multinational corporations. Alternative facts will probably play a significant role.
One issue that many critics will try to change are the investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS) that gives corporations the right to sue governments for introducing regulations that could have a negative effect on their investments or expected future profits:These anti-democratic, supra-national corporate tribunals override the national court systems, eliminating government ability to regulate in the public interest by supporting industries that create good local jobs and by protecting the environment. Canada is already the most sued developed country in the world because of NAFTA's ISDS process.
NAFTA has had a devastating effect on more than two million small-scale Mexican farmers as the provisions of NAFTA favor the interests of large agri-business. Many Mexican farmers were forced off their land and some joined the many immigrants crossing the U.S. border searching for work. NAFTA does not recognize indigenous rights. Opening up NAFTA for renegotiating presents an opportunity to remove some of the worst aspects of the deal. Given the makeup of Trump's administration it seems highly unlikely that we will see any movement in that direction. However, pressure can be put on him to make some positive changes. Pressure will be needed by people in all three countries to make this happen. Trump is trying to circumvent this by his appeal to put Americans first thus creating divisions among Mexican, Canadian, and American workers.

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