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At the risk of being drummed out of the NDP, I tend to side with MP Larry Miller in his assessment of the USMCA (the US, Mexico, Canada Agreement), but without his outrage.

Looking back at the drama of the negotiations, the result gives the whole thing the air of farce. Even the title waxes satirical – it can be misconstrued as either an acronym for the ‘United States Marine Corps of America’ or a song by the Village People.

But, like the NAFTA it replaces, this one has its darker side. Take section 32.10. Under that we would have to seek the blessing of the US and Mexico for any trade deal we might want to make with nations with a ‘non-market economies’ (read ‘China’). Anyone who thinks this section is a puff-piece and that the US will simply say OK to one of its neighbours opening the door to Chinese goods, services and investment has to be taking advantage of Liberalized pot laws.

The Americans would pull out of the USMCA before they’d let that happen, or impose punishing tariffs on us. And speaking of tariffs, didn’t Mr Trudeau promise the US tariffs on steel and aluminum would come off once the USMCA was signed? Well, they haven’t, which gives you some idea of how the US values its control over the North American economy.

I heard Chrystia Freeland, our lead negotiator, debate 32.10 with the host of CBC’s The House. He said the article gives the US unholy influence over Canada’s trade aspirations. “No it doesn’t” said Freeland. “Yes it does,” said the host. “No it doesn’t,” said Freeland, turning the whole thing into a Monty Python routine. “I’m sorry ma’am, this parrot is dead.” “No it isn’t.”

Then there’s dairy, poultry and eggs. By the time you add up the encroachment on the Canadian market imposed by the deals signed with Europe and with Pacific rim countries (the old TPP), you find that our dairy farmers have taken a hit of nearly 10%. Farmers raising broiler chicks are hit even harder – over 20%.

In earlier pieces, Jim Algie has talked about the irony of the American distaste with our supply management system, given the degree to which they subsidize their own agricultural sector. Mr Harper promised compensation for dairy, egg and poultry farmers should their markets shrink, and Mr Trudeau has gone along with that. But guess who foots the bill?

Supply managed dairy, eggs and poultry is a made-in-Canada solution to an otherwise precarious endeavour – especially for small family farms in a relatively small market. Stabilizing farmers has stabilized rural communities and businesses. I think that’s a good thing. So, here’s an idea … just say no. Hang tough and leave the farmers out of trade negotiations.

The evil Chapter 11 is gone, thank goodness. That was the chapter in the old NAFTA that allowed corporations to sue us if they thought we were imposing unfair trade barriers – you know, like environmental protection laws. But the same sort of regulatory chill that made our MPs think twice before they passed legislation will now be delivered by sections that demand constant review of the USMCA.

For example, article 34.7 requires the three amigos review the Agreement every 6 years. If one of them does not confirm they want to extend the Agreement, then they must review the Agreement every year. That’ll give the US plenty of opportunity and time to impose its will on us. Besides, as their President has already demonstrated, the US is not afraid to trump (heh, heh) negotiations with tariffs.

The UMCA is not so much a bad deal as it is a stale deal. We are still holding the dirty end of the stick. It will continue to make corporations rich, but it won’t do much for workers in Canada, the US and Mexico (except for the few who work in the automotive industry there). It doesn’t free us from the grasp of the American economy any more than NATA did. And it won’t do a thing to halt the inequality that is steadily eroding the societies of all three countries.

In a word, ‘meh.’

David McLaren
Neyaashiinigmiing

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