Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Canadian Right Wing doesn't like Obama either

Let's be charitable and assume that when Greg Weston refers to Obama as 'boy' in his Sun chain column today it's just an example of thoughtless stupidity rather than actual racism.

His opinion that Obama's concern for workers and desire to re-negotiate NAFTA and other trade agreements to protect labour rights would be bad for Canada on the other hand, is just the usual parroting of right wing talking points instead of real analysis.
For a start, this champion of hope for curing what ails America is also an apostle of the deep Left -- among other things, an advocate of stronger unions with tougher labour laws. While making U.S. industry less competitive may intuitively seem like an unearned advantage for Canadian business, not much hurts the American economy that doesn't eventually bite here, too. But there could be a bigger problem with our boy Barack of the labour left.
At a union-sponsored forum in Chicago, Obama was asked whether he would scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement if he became president.
"I would immediately call the president of Mexico, and the president of Canada," he said, "to try to amend NAFTA because I think that we can get labour agreements in that agreement right now."

Aside from the trivial mistake of referring to Canada's head of state as 'President' there really isn't anything in this statement that is that controversial. Why should workers consider successful, agreements that make cross border wealthy people wealthier while driving workers rights and gains downward? We've learned that trade harmonization almost invariably means worker and consumer protections race to the bottom and beyond.
In short, protectionism always gets a big cheer at the union hall, but less so when the workers start losing their jobs to trade wars.

While so called 'free trade' gets even more cheers in the board room when Canadian jobs are lost to overseas outsourcing and the collapse of our local manufacturing sector and workplace, environmental and consumer protection standards get lower and lower. Remember when Canada had to lower our standards of minimum poisons on food because they were a 'trade irritant' to American firms with lower standards for toxins on fruit and vegtables? How about having to repeal Canadian laws against toxic fuel additives because American firms saw it as restraint of their trade in toxic fuel additives?

NAFTA had even worse effects in Mexico as family farmers were driven out, sometimes violently by huge corporate agribusiness.

Renegotiating NAFTA and other trade agreements to bring true cost environmental, consumer and labour concerns to the table is only a threat if you think such things are some kind of lefty plot rather than simple common sense.

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