Mel Watkins gives us “Ten Good Reasons to Oppose Free Trade” in this week’s flashback. Penned in 1986, when free trade was first floated as the solution to the economic woes of the Regan-Mulroney era, the list provides an exhaustive account of hidden political, economic, and cultural costs of supposedly “free” trade. In short, writes Watkins, any free trade agreement would seriously undermine Canadian sovereignty by forcing Canada to play by the rules set out in America’s neoliberal playbook.
Looking back on the piece from 2012, when free trade and its consequences have become all too familiar to Canadians, Watkins article reads like a piece of Old Testament prophecy. From the dilution of Canada’s cultural industry to the forced “harmonization” of Canada’s political values and economy with our southern neighbours—it’s all here. Especially intriguing, given the current state of economic decline south of the boarder, is Watkins contention that the United States’ enthusiasm for free trade is rooted in a misguided attempt to address deregulation through a cycle of irresponsible military spending and reckless borrowing—unsound practice which have formed the substratum of the U.S economy since the early eighties.