This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Obama and NAFTA

This Magazine Staff

The American Presidential election is coming to a close next tuesday, November 4. Canadians might be watching this election as if it were a tv show – amused, entertained, titillated, yet ultimately detached. But let’s not forget just how much our future is wrapped up in the dealings of those south of the border.
Case in point, our economies are very much intertwined at the moment. With the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, Canada, the United States, and Mexico, forged a special trade relationship comprising lowered tariffs and, since 1998, the elemination of all tariffs on qualifying goods traded between Canada and the United States. Some of the effects of the agreement include relaxed restrictions on the mobility of workers from the three states; the strengthened role of foreign corporations in domestic affairs; and weakened environmental regulations; and weakened workers unions.
So in light of our growing integration with the United States, and the current election, Paul Cellucci, American ambassador to Canada, thought he would tell us what a Barack Obama administration would mean. He said that if Obama wins, there will be pressure on him “to . . . open up NAFTA and make significant changes. I don’t think that’s in U.S. interest; I don’t think that’s in Canadian interest.” This would be a “danger” to Canada in Cellucci’s view.
What Cellucci fails to understand, or conveniently forgets to mention, is that Canada is deeply apprehensive about NAFTA-as-it-currently-stands. The agreement is still seen as doing more for the United States than for Canada, and a good majority of Canadians feel the agreement should be renegotiated. The kind of renegotiation Cellucci warns of should not be seen as a “danger” to Canada. It’s quite obviously an oppurtunity.

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