Bush, Harper & Calderon Defend NAFTA

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 12:43pm.

President George W. Bush and the leaders of Canada and Mexico will use a summit meeting today in New Orleans to defend free trade and their $930 billion in cross-border commerce against a political backlash. It won't be easy...

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have each made lowering trade barriers, cutting regulation and supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement a hallmark of their administrations, and will make the case with Bush for those policies.

"All three governments want to push back on the perception that NAFTA is a disaster,'' said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a business-backed group that will meet with the leaders tomorrow. ``The overriding political imperative is the support of NAFTA.''

Each leader faces opposition related to NAFTA, the world's largest free-trade agreement. As a result, analysts are predicting few tangible results from this fourth gathering of the three leaders dealing with a joint effort on security and commerce.

"They will have some jambalaya, eat some gumbo and send the right signals, but don't expect much,'' said Michael Hart, a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.

One goal is to harmonize standards in areas such as fuel efficiency and automobile testing, Dan Fisk, director for Western Hemisphere affairs on Bush's National Security Council, told reporters on April 18. The focus is on autos, because many parts are made in Canada and Mexico.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot

A business advisory group made up of executives from Wal- Mart Stores Inc., Ford Motor Co. and Home Depot Inc., which all have major operations in Mexico and Canada, will meet with the leaders tomorrow.

Bush, Calderon and Harper will also seek greater cooperation on protecting intellectual property and seizing fake products, Fisk said.

In the U.S., the loss of jobs due to international competition has become an issue in this year's presidential election campaign as Republican Bush comes to the end of his presidency. The Democratic presidential candidates are squabbling over who dislikes NAFTA more, and Congress voted to delay consideration of a similar trade accord with Colombia.

Clinton Versus Clinton

While campaigning in Pittsburgh last week, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York renewed her pledge to renegotiate NAFTA to beef up labor standards and environmental protection provisions, and took a swipe at her husband Bill Clinton for pushing the pact through Congress.

"As smart as my husband is, he does make mistakes,'' Clinton said April 14. "We've now had 15 years of experience with NAFTA, and the evidence is clear that we have to change the basic provisions.''

Her adversary, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, counters that he had always opposed NAFTA, and says Clinton only became disenchanted as part of the election campaign.

The opposition isn't just in the U.S.

In Mexico, 150,000 farmers shut down Mexico City's main boulevard during a Jan. 31 march against cheap food imports, saying they are being put out of business by subsidized U.S. crops, especially corn.

They say NAFTA will push more Mexican farmers off their land, forcing them to try to enter the U.S. illegally looking for better work.

Mexican Trucks

In addition, the U.S. Congress has tried to block a requirement that Mexican trucks be allowed on American roads.

If that happens, "the U.S. would be breaking NAFTA and we would have the possibility to take reprisals,'' Mexican Economy Minister Eduardo Sojo said April 16 at the World Economic Forum in Cancun.

In Canada, which sells about 75 percent of its exports to the U.S., the attention is focused on what the next administration in the U.S. might do to weaken NAFTA.

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed requiring passports to travel to Canada, a move that has drawn protests from leaders in Ottawa.

Congress is moving forward with legislation to require country-of-origin labeling of meat, which might destroy the cross-border coordination of hog producers.

In Manitoba, hog farmers are beginning to euthanize hundreds of thousands of young pigs because U.S. farmers, scared by the proposal, are breaking contracts and refusing to buy them, the National Post reported.

'Gathering Steam'

"Protectionist forces have been gathering steam for some years and they're showing no signs of abating,'' Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson said April 2.

Yet when the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) began in Waco, Texas, in March 2005, Bush and his counterparts pledged to improve the flow of people across the borders, cooperate on regulatory standards and promote collaboration on transportation and other issues.

Since then, the three leaders have met with business leaders each year and affirmed their support for the concept. After their last summit in Montebello, Quebec, they announced a joint plan to fight avian flu, and agreed to cooperate on energy and protect copyrights and patents.

Future joint summits might end up being transformed into forums that a new U.S. president could use to seek changes to the trade accord.

Instead of scrapping NAFTA, the forum "could be adapted'' to deal with the labor and environmental issues raised by Obama and Clinton, said Christopher Sands, a senior fellow at the non-partisan Hudson Institute in Washington.


Bloomburg - April 21, 2008 - posted at www.roguegovernment.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 12:43pm.


Powell Lucas (not verified) | Mon, 04/21/2008 - 3:06pm

No adaptation! No renegotiation! The sentiment in all three countries is turning against NAFTA and reopening it would require that it be approved by the Canadian Parliament, the U.S. Congress and the Mexican Congress. I can only speak for the mood in Canada, but it doesn't have a chance of gaining approval up here. Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton stirred up a real hornet's nest in this neck of the woods. Prior to them shooting off their mouths, most Canadians were sort of neutral on the subject of NAFTA. However, a great many Canadians are now coming around to the view that the hysteria is just a way for the U.S. to rape, loot, and pillage the natural resource sector in this country so as to gain a unfair advantage in trade. In addition, most of us are fed up with every chicken-s**t little U.S. organization going to court and shutting down the border just to protect their own uncompetitive market. Recently, China signed a deal for potash at a 300% increase over the last contract. Just imagine what they would pay for a steady and secure supply of oil, copper, nickel, and uranium. As of right now Canada is tied into sharing petroleum on a percentage of production basis as a result of NAFTA. Whereas I once supported NAFTA as a way to increase prosperity for all, I am now sick and tired of all the whining about it from Stateside and Canadians have no intention of being sucked into a heads-you-win, tails-I lose renegotiation. So, to Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama: whichever one of you wins the election, please make reopening NAFTA your primarly initiative so we can scrap the whole thing.