Cartoon by Khalil Bendib for Corpwatch.org
This from the CBC:
On Aug. 10, 2005, an ìextraordinary challenge panelî under NAFTA dismissed American claims that the earlier NAFTA decision in favour of Canada violated trade rules.
“We are extremely pleased that the ECC dismissed the claims of the United States,” said International Trade Minister Jim Peterson.
“This is a binding decision that clearly eliminates the basis for U.S.-imposed duties on Canadian softwood lumber. We fully expect the United States to abide by this ruling, stop collecting duties and refund the duties collected over the past three years,” he said.
Washingtonís initial response was that the ruling doesnít settle anything ñ and that it will take more negotiations before this dispute is wrapped up.
The amount at stake is about $5B plus accrued interest. Not only is Bush refusing to pay the amounts owed, they are continuing to collect the huge illegal duty on these goods. And does this duty go to offset the oppressive national debt? No — it is paid over directly to a consortium of American lumber companies, heavy supporters of the Bush election campaigns, in as blatant an example of graft as the West has seen in decades. This is the latest and final step in a long series of stalling and appealing by the US of its preposterous claim that its 26% duty on Canadian softwood lumber is somehow not a blatant violation of NAFTA, an agreement which they have vigorously enforced whenever it is to their advantage to do so. The poor third-world suckers who last week signed CAFTA have no idea what kind of one-sided agreement they just locked themselves into.
The stance of the Bush administration makes abundantly clear (if there was any doubt) that it considers the US above all international laws and bilateral agreements, but expects its trading partners and other countries to adhere to them. This is nothing short of unilateralist bullying, a criminal act of extortion. It shows contempt for the law and for all other nations. It is a slap in the face to Canadian sovereignty. It also shows that ‘free’ trade agreements are fraudulent, and furthers the demise of globalization.
What do you do with someone who extorts money from you and then fails to live up to their agreement anyway — killing their hostages (the Canadian lumber industry) after taking the payoffs for their release? The total lack of ethics this demonstrates is mind-boggling — this regime truly is psychopathic, and devoid of moral principles.
As my readers will know, I’m ambivalent about this outcome. Under NAFTA, Canada sacrificed its right to enact and enforce labour and environmental laws that are more stringent than the lax American laws, and has received nothing in return from Bush except deceit and theft. The US embargo on Canadian cattle, done under the guise of protecting the US from Canadian ‘mad cow’ while covering up America’s own mad cow occurrences, were similarly a complete fraud, an act of unabashed protectionism. So I’m not terribly unhappy to see Bush renege on, and jeopardize, so-called ‘free’ trade agreements. It is time for Canada to get some balls and stop complying with agreements with the US that the US does not, and has no intention of, complying with. The Canadian government should immediately:
Our federal government’s position as quoted by the CBC is encouraging, but it is principally posturing. As always, the Bush regime will ignore it. If Canada goes back to the negotiating table (that’s what the BC forest products association, dominated by US-owned multinationals, wants it to do) we will lose all credibility and what little respect we have left. That’s why the five steps above are our only recourse. What would Bush do in response? Well, he could invoke additional duties of his own, but that would hurt the US more than it would hurt Canada. He could try to make things difficult for us by restricting Canadians’ and Americans’ ability to cross the border, but in many ways that would be a good thing for Canada — we would have to learn to do more for ourselves, and would have to establish trade partnerships with Europe that would make us much less dependent on the horrifically fragile US economy. He is already perpetrating other outrages against Canadians — harassing, kidnapping and sending Canadians who pass through US airports, to foreign countries to be tortured and killed, and threatening the government with veiled threats (using the wingnuts he sends here as ‘ambassadors’) if we don’t gratefully agree to participate in his criminal wars and ludicrous, unworkable star wars defence schemes. What more could he do? Invade? I don’t think even Bush is that politically dumb.
Someone has to stand up to the schoolyard bully. Canada is in a much stronger position to do so than many of the third world countries Bush is pushing around. And now the bully has picked a fight with us, expecting us to roll over and cower. Let’s not, and see what happens.
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