How is Canada faring in our industrial diversification? Progress on trade diversification over the past 15 years is likely one of the most remarkable developments in Canadian economic history. A strong dependence on traditional markets was only enhanced by the Canada-US FTA, which saw exports to the US soar to over 85 per cent of the total. But a big shift began in the New Millennium.
Mexico's human rights crisis is staring Canada in the face. According to Amnesty International, there are six times more reported cases of torture and ill-treatment than a decade ago. The 43 disappeared in Ayontizapa are only a needle in the hay stack of more than 80,000 estimated dead and 26,000 disappeared in the last 8 years.
Canada's environment appears to be taking the brunt of NAFTA-enabled corporate attacks. And when NAFTA environmental-protection provisions do kick in, the government often rejects them. According to a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, more than 70 per cent of NAFTA claims since 2005 have been against Canada, with nine active cases totalling $6 billion outstanding.
Canada needs to make more use of direct programming with target countries (nearly 80 per cent of official aid went to foreign agencies in 2013, often on a sole-sourced basis). And more should be done to connect Canadian expertise to multilateral development banks and international humanitarian institutions.
By design, free trade agreements tear down the protectionist walls propping up status quo producers. However, even those producers -- at least those who reform, will also find a newfound ability to thrive given increased access to markets with tens of millions, or hundreds of millions, of potential new customers. All of this benefits consumers, most obviously when expensive tariffs on their choices, from Korean cars to Canadian beef, are eliminated.
When concluded, the Canada-Japan EPA would create a year-on-year multi-billion-dollar gain for the Canadian economy. A joint study by Canada and Japan has estimated the annual boost to Canada's gross domestic product from an EPA would be between $3.9 billion and $9.3 billion, while the gains for Japan's economy are estimated to be between $4.5 billion and $5.1 billion.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government would support the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) -- with conditions. The province should be compensated by the federal government, said the Premier, for an expected nine-figure increase in drug costs, as well as the effect of subsidized European cheese imports on local dairy farmers and possible hardship at Ontario wineries. Think about that for a second. The feds will hand money over to Ontario, who will in turn hand much of it over to pharmaceutical giants.
Should the "right" of a foreign corporation to make a profit trump governments' attempts to create local jobs, improve environmental regulations or establish laws that raise royalty rates? Most Canadians would say no. But that's what the Conservative government is pushing poor countries to accept if they want Canadian investment.
It's time that governments stop signing trade and investment pacts that put the rights of corporations above the rights of communities and the environment. My right to clean water, clean air, and a healthy planet for my family and community has to come before Lone Pine's right to mine and profit... doesn't it?
Corporate empowerment deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the as yet unratified Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), a bilateral agreement with China, empower corporations to the extent that government legislation becomes subordinated to corporate profits. There are ways to combat this, but it will not be easy.