Is Obama a Mixed Blessing for Canada?

There might be a downside for Canada if Obama wins, according to some experts.

The Rideau Institute released a report, How the next US president could affect our country, where Rideau president, Steven Staples had some harsh words for both major political parties,

By virtue of conjoined geography, history, economies and political cultures, Canada and the United States are inextricably linked, and it is only a matter of time before the shifts in U.S. politics realign Canada’s politics as well.

One need look no further than the dramatic rise of the U.S. national-security state in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks when President Bush embarked on the U.S.-led War on Terrorism, and challenged nations of the world, including Canada, to join the war or be considered unfriendly to the United States’ interests.

In Canada, the Chrétien government quickly implemented far-reaching national security measures to harmonize with U.S. priorities – with terrible results, as Canadians saw when Maher Arar was trapped and tortured by the post-9/11 secret security apparatus – while famously refusing to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, emphasizing instead Canada’s military role in Afghanistan.

…Like Martin, Conservative Prime Minister Harper has carried on Canada’s march alongside the U.S., helping it to erect a new Fortress North America, with Canada firmly ensconced behind the U.S. security perimeter walls.

Canada’s attempts to curry favour with the Bush administration has been costly to our country, but those costs pale in comparison to the damage his administration has inflicted on the United States.

Of particular concern throughout the report is Afghanistan and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

A shift away from Iraq by America towards Afghanistan could make it more difficult for Canada to meet its 2011 withdrawal date. It could also make it easier though, given there would be less of a need to rely on Canadian troops.

Although Obama might seek to renegotiate NAFTA to better meet American needs, this might be an opportunity for Canada as well.

A Soft Spot for NAFTA

Many Canadians feel NAFTA has failed their national interests, especially when it comes to softwood lumber, one of our largest exports at $10.5-billion per annum. The issue has been one of the longest trade disputes in history, and remains without any ratified conclusion.

In 2005 the Canadian government had to give lumber associations $20 million to assist them with their legal costs, and has paid several million themselves in the dispute, forming the single largest budget item of the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The 2006 U.S. Court of International Trade Agreement decision, Tembec, Inc vs. United States, indicated that the actions of the United States Trade Representative was ultra vires and their actions were not authorized by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.

Renegotiating NAFTA could also help raise environmental issues as a priority.

The methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT) dispute over gasoline additives cost Canada US$201 million under a Chapter 11 NAFTA and Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) claims. A lawyer involved in the dispute raised additional concerns,

The problem with the MMT case is, with the secrecy permitted under NAFTA, we will never know the full story.

Without minimizing the importance American trade, there are reasons to ensure we’re not wearing blinders to our detriment.

The 2007 The Conference Board of Canada report, Mission Possible: Sustainable Prosperity for Canada, predicted the current volatility in American markets. They recommended Canada strengthen its economy by diversifying its trade partners.

Renegotiating our NAFTA agreement with the U.S., and perhaps even clarifying our role in NATO, might actually be in our best long-term interests.

Excerpt from Confessions of an Obamaniac in Canada

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