Bush Shows His True Stripes on ‘Free’ Trade

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:

  • Cancel its participation in NAFTA;
  • Protest through the UN our objection to the Bush government’s rogue behaviour — and insist that Bush agree to abide by international laws or face global sanctions; there is no doubt that under Bolton, the US will withdraw from the UN anyway, and they are already seriously in default on their dues, so expelling them first might actually sufficiently embarrass them to get them to behave in a more civilized manner (and there would be no downside to doing so, since they are already seriously undermining it);
  • Sue the Bush government for the amount they owe Canada for this and other illegal acts; this will not get them to pay, of course, but will show them to be the deadbeats they really are, and may demonstrate to the American people that Bush and his cronies are so badly undermining the reputation of the US that they need to get him and the other politicians in the back pockets of corporatist thieves out of office;
  • Selectively introduce countervailing duties, but only on goods that (considering our Canadian climate) we can reasonably produce domestically; and
  • Refuse to sell goods to the US (like water and natural gas) that are clearly not surplus to our own long-term domestic needs.

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.

This entry was posted in How the World Really Works. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Bush Shows His True Stripes on ‘Free’ Trade

  1. Agreed. Minimally, we should withdraw from NAFTA. But that’s just a start.

  2. Doug Alder says:

    It’s how we should withdraw from NAFTA that is critical. We should not just say that’s it, give our six month’s notice (as required by the treaty) and go our separate ways. That makes us look like the bad guys. A fundamental principle of western law is that a contract negotiated in bad faith is a null and void contract. What we should do is very publicly make it known that the US deliberately negotiated NAFTA in bad faith and htat as a result the contract never existed in law. Then we should procede to slap a 27% export duty on all energy oil and gas products heading to the US. We should also change our energy laws to make it mandatory for all energy companies to be 100% canadian owned and not subsidiaries of US companies. Why do we allow foreign companies to come here and extract our natural resources, ship them out of the country in a raw or near raw state, and then ship the profits out of the country as well? Sounds to me like a definition of national insanity.

  3. Herbinator says:

    Your points are spot on. Though your rhetoric is a bit troublesome.Import duties on meat (to spur Canadian-based value-added processing) and diary (we have our own surplus quantities we can process) for starters.Natural gas clampdown — good point.Imports specific to American-owned corporations sounds good, too.Ending NAFTA, goood. It prevents community-based economics.

  4. I’m American and I still agree. I’m also not a fan of the Bush regime, so there’s that. Nor have I ever been a fan of NAFTA. But as a fan of Canada, I’d much prefer to see it stand up for itself (once again, as you did when you refused to take part in this pathological wargame we’re currently embroiled in) and walk away from the negotiating table if you don’t think you’re being treated fairly. If the Canadian lumber industry is so predicated on profits from American companies that it can’t consider saying “no” to being abused, maybe it needs to be shaken up.

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Stephen, Doug, Mark, Justin: Yes, yes, yes, yes. It will be fascinating to see Martin’s next move on this, after Bush’s toady ‘ambassador’ Wilkins simply declared the US ‘does not accept’ the unanimous binding decision of the NAFTA board that the US agreed to. Kinda like a man convicted of murder saying he ‘does not accept’ the jury’s guilty finding and being astonished that he’s still taken away.

  6. Thanks for writing about this, Dave. Recently I was thinking about this very subject and wondered if Americans were even aware of it.

  7. Sandy Thomson says:

    Did you just ever get to the point where you were saturated with rage, sickness or incomprehension at the sheer and continuing viciousness exhibited by someone? That exact spot where you can be absolutely sickened unto death by the mere mention of something? I have attained that point with the United States…From their generational illegal miltary adventures, to the many and ongoing NAFTA disputes, to the extraterritorial attempt to impose their laws on us and extradite Canadian Marc Emery for selling marajuana seeds through the mail, and even for the way they ignore the needs of the most disadvantaged within their own 16th century-based ‘society’. I have reached the point where I wouldn’t be at all upset to see someone, anyone, blow a great big chunk right off of that smug bully’s ‘Homeland’.It’s a rant. I’m tired. Sick and bloody tired.I know what the bulk of the planet’s third-world citizens have likely felt for as much as a century.

  8. Dave Pollard says:

    Sandy: Fascinating rant. I know how you feel, but I believe it’s just a small powerful minority that are exploiting the weaknesses in their systems — as in most countries, most of us want to do the right thing. It’s the political and economic systems that allow this exploitation that need a chunk blown off them.

Comments are closed.