Happy Groundhog Day -- which for me now conjures the Bill Murray movie of that name. I half expected to wake up to Sonny and Cher “I’ve got you babe.” (Apologies if any of you have never seen the movie….and the movie’s premise of a day that repeats itself endlessly until it comes out right.)
The Groundhog Day theme may actually fit with what I wanted to share in this letter. We certainly have taken NAFTA and done it again. It is not perfect, but it is certainly a vast improvement. And all three Green MPs voted in support this week.
Now that we are three Green MPs, we have adopted the decision-making process of Greens everywhere. We work to consensus. Like the European Parliament Greens, we start by choosing one of us to be the coordinator on any motion or bill. The coordinator does the deep research and analysis and brings the rest of us a recommendation for a consensus position. We will always try to achieve consensus, but, if we do not, MPs are free to vote as they think right. Our review of the new NAFTA (also known as CUSMA) was led by Paul Manly. Paul has been the Green International Trade Critic for years. Before that, due to his work as an independent film-maker, he is very knowledgeable about trade and the perverse investor-state dispute systems ISDS (also known as FIPPA’s). We reviewed the pluses and the minuses of CUSMA and decided quite confidently to vote to ratify.
· We don’t have a choice between the new NAFTA and no NAFTA. Our choice is between the new one and the one we have.
· Green policy for over a decade has been to re-negotiate NAFTA with the goal of – at a minimum -- getting rid of the ISDS regime in Chapter 11, as well as the energy chapter. Both are now gone! It is a very major win.(see Vision Green Trade section for more: https://www.greenparty.ca/sites/default/files/vision_green_-_2019_update_final.pdf)
· Chapter 11 was the provision that allowed US corporations to seek – and win – damages from secret hearings in which Canadians lost environmental protections. Now we need to get rid of these ISDS in dozens of other trade agreements.
· The Energy chapter required that Canada continue to sell the US any exported energy at the same proportion as in recent years – even at the expense of our own energy security. No such provision applied to Mexico. So – if ratified – the energy chapter is gone!
· The labour standards are much improved.
· The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation is strengthened (Trump had wanted it eliminated when this began).
· For the first time, there is some language calling for gender analysis and the rights of indigenous peoples.
· The work of Democrats in the US Congress removed a provision to lock in patent protection for biologic drugs for ten years (drugs made from living organisms)
· The auto sector and the content rules will work better to protect the North American auto sector.
· There is an exemption for cultural industries to protect Canadian culture.
· The agreement strengthens labour provisions. Mexican workers have guaranteed rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Auto workers in Mexico get a guaranteed $16/hr minimum wage. Single Labour violations can trigger a response that can bring sanctions.
There are minuses. The agreement protects our supply managed agriculture sectors, but chips away at them. There will be more milk products from the US allowed into Canada. We must push for a law to prevent US dairy products contaminated with Bovine Growth Hormone from entering Canada. No agreement was going to be perfect. But this is the first time in Canadian history that a trade agreement has been negotiated that improves the situation.
We as Greens worked steadily for this result, but credit clearly goes to the cool head and nerves of steel of the lead minister – now Deputy Prime Minister Christia Freeland. President Trump was erratic and unfair. He hit Canada with trade penalties on steel and aluminum. He spoke about walking away. Strangely, he also called for getting rid of Chapter 11.
This week, an increasingly reckless Trump blew a hole through hopes for fair treatment of the people of Palestine. His outrageous proposal was so one-sidedly pro-Israel, it was a transparent bid to help Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who joined Trump for the announcement, with a boost in his election campaign. Israelis go to the polls in two weeks.
The “deal of the century” is horrific. It would allow Israel to keep all the territories it has occupied since 1967. It would allow Israel to have full control over Jerusalem. The international protections for the world’s major three religions to peaceful sharing of this most sacred of ancient cities is a core element of any future peace. Trump also announced this week that the US wants to ignore the Ottawa Land Mines Treaty. I worry how we can continue to protect Canada’s relations with the United States in the face of a president who poses a danger to the world.
For now, we can avoid a sea of troubles by seeing CUSMA ratified. The question remains: for how long can Canada tolerate the worst excesses of Trump? When are we required by the weight of history to speak the truth to a worried world?
For now, have a lovely Sunday!
Love and thanks,