Is there life after NAFTA?

Oct 10 20:10 2018 Print This Article

Mel Watkins

Like all sensible folk, I was opposed to the original NAFTA deal at the outset, convinced that it did more for corporations than for the rest of us. I'm still of that view.

Is it possible that the biggest change in the new deal is in the name itself, USMCA, so that Trump can boast that he delivered on his promise to get rid of NAFTA? A number of commentators on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border have written -- in the words of John Ibbitson in The Globe and Mail -- that the USMCA is "essentially the old NAFTA tilted more in America's favour." Is that all there is?

Firstly, it's quite a tilt -- like the U.S. keeping a special tariff on aluminum and steel from Canada, on the grounds, believe it or not, of national security. Talk about absurdly fake facts.

Let's go back to the beginning in the late 1980s. The U.S. and Canada had just signed the Free Trade Agreement, or FTA, when, with the ink hardly dry, the U.S. insisted on adding Mexico. We thought we'd made a one-on-one deal, a special arrangement that got us inside what our government thought, wrongly as it turned out, was a rising tide of American protectionism -- which has now happened a quarter of a century later and we waited almost a year to join this new round of negotiations. This initial lack of enthusiasm has not stopped us from peddling the praises of NAFTA and fighting hard to keep it.

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