The true nature of the trade progressive

Photo: Pedro Pardo Agence France-Presse
The canadian minister of foreign Affairs, asked by chrystia Freeland, had not hidden, in August, his concern about the international trade increasingly associated with rising inequality.

In the Face of an american administration that does not say that the evil of the NAFTA, Canada, is engaged in the renegotiation of the commercial agreement essentially with a view to save everything that can be, but also with the hope of him turning the corner of the ” business progressive “. Nothing appears, however, less certain that the success of this approach in favour of the environment, workers, women and indigenous peoples.

 

One could think of an idea launched only for a feel-good figure, or to let fall as soon as the time of the compromise will be arrived. “It is true that we often use this kind of tactics in trade negotiations. But I think in this case, there is something more fundamental that is happening, ” said Michele Rioux, a professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.

 

The renegotiation of the free trade Agreement north american (NAFTA) has begun its fourth round on Wednesday, in Washington. Since the beginning, Canada has the “business progressive” as the best way to ensure that free trade benefits the greatest number and to curb the rise of protectionism.

 

Concluded it was almost 25 years between Canada, the United States and Mexico, NAFTA had been grafted in disaster two parallel agreements, one on labour rights and the other on the environment, in order to allow the american president elect, Bill Clinton, to calm down a bit critical of his left wing. The experience has not been the failure that it is often said, not least for its environmental component, ensures Scott Vaughan, president and chief executive officer of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Although it does not set out any minimum standard and has no power of sanction, the agreement is parallel to the environment has enabled the collection and sharing of important data on the pollution, migratory species and the habitats common to the three countries. “At the time, it was the first time that we had a place for this type of issue in a treaty of free trade. “

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Things have evolved a lot since, note Patrick Leblond, professor at the University of Ottawa. The digital revolution and the emergence of new trading powers have accelerated global economic integration. “There is no longer a question of reducing quotas and tariffs. The barriers to trade which are now attacking are the differences in rules and standards between jurisdictions. This may cause fears of a race to the lowest common denominator. “

 

We do not precisely know the requests made by Canada in the matter of trade-progressive. We guess, however, that it is inspired by the recently concluded negotiations with the european Union or in the framework of the trans-pacific Partnership, say our experts. We would like as well as the environment, labour, gender and indigenous peoples each have their own chapter in the agreement. In the case of work, we require that the parties commit themselves to a minimum to respect the principles of the international labour Organization on freedom of association, the effective right to bargain collectively, or even the abolition of forced labour, and that of the children. In environmental matters, reference is without doubt the international frameworks related to the fight against climate change or protection of biodiversity. If one relies on the agreement on canada-european, Canada is looking likely to be a combination of regulatory cooperation and the right to use trade sanctions in case of violation of minimum standards or unfair practices.

 

In regards to gender equality, civil society groups said in Ottawa last week to expect something similar to a section recently added to the treaty of free trade between Canada and Chile, that is to say, a mere declaration of principles without any real bite to it, but with new statistics on which to build future actions.

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What we already know, is that Canada is calling for a tightening of the rules of the famous chapter XI of the NAFTA agreement allows a private investor to sue a government. As with the Europeans, we will aim to reaffirm the right of States to legislate for the common good.

 

“Several of these proposals should normally appeal to the president Trump, who is the defender of the workers and small businesses,” observes Patrick Leblond. But his actions often contradict his words. It wish surely be that Mexico is raising its standards of work, but I doubt he agrees to put an end to acts of anti-union southern United States. “In fact, says the economist, it is to ask whether it wants an agreement at all.

 

Several social movements are wary of the seriousness of the project “fair trade” progressive “, reports Michèle Rioux. “On the other hand, we do not have the choice to try things because globalization does not stop. We need international rules. “

 

The government’s decisions Trump, however, fear the worst to Scott Vaughan. We know that the future will belong to those countries that have managed to build green economies and integrated, ” he said. “Canada, the United States and Mexico can do like 25 years ago and establish a model that will influence the next generation… or miss this opportunity and see others, such as China and India, do so at their place. “

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