Obama is coming up to visit Canada today and of course one of the big topics of conversation will be trade. So I wanted to voice a few thoughts on the matter.
During the primaries there was a short stint where McCain, Clinton and Obama started finger-pointing about who said they'd revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, ultimately no one admitted to saying anything definitive on the subject though I do think a few town-hall meetings in hard-up states brought the issue front and center.
Here's the thing, in the eyes of some out-of-work factory man from Idaho Canadians are just as bad as Mexicans for stealing American work I'm sure. American stores should sell American-made goods because Americans should be working, not buying goods brought in from foreign nations that employ dirty foreigners that aren't American. I get that. But here's my Canadian take.
The softwood lumber dispute where American companies got to disobey NAFTA and void lumber contracts nearly destroyed the economy of my province, it was okay then and no one cares now, now Canada is doing pretty well for it's self supplying the lion's share of Oil, natural gas, water and electricity that America gets from foreign sources, America still needs those things and we supply them cheap because of NAFTA. Revising the trade agreement would mean that we have a serious bargaining chip for the next deal, maybe that chip isn't as big as it was this summer when oil prices were three times what they are now, but we're still shipping a LOT of water to the US and global warming is all too real, so the need for water isn't going away any time soon.
But don't think that Canada is all hunky dory with the fact that we're making good coin shipping off our natural resources. Sure it keeps us working and making money, but we're still paying more for gas than our southern neighbors. Most of our oil is shipped south of the border, refined and then shipped back up here to us. Not a great deal at all considering that Alberta's tar-sands are an oil source 20 to 30 times what exists in ANWAR. We're also worried about the water loss for obvious reasons, and we know all too well that American companies don't give a rat's ass about long-term or balanced relationships. They'll use only the things they need until they don't need them, and then they'll leave us facing the business end of a very cold shoulder. We understand that this is the way America does business, and we live with it, but it does give us pause and look for alternatives and better footing when we do go into business with them. In Canada protection of our resources is therefore becoming a considerably more popular mindset.
This I think means that one should keep a balance mindset when discussing trade, the economy and handing out blame. As friends, Canada and the US collectively have the capability to help each other weather these troubled times, but as rivals standing alone in the face of a cold economic winter could be quite harsh indeed.