November 18, 2008

Is it time to perform surgery on NAFTA?

Will NAFTA be re-opened?


By Melvin J. Howard


One of the results of the G-20 meetings in Washington was member countries would refrain from raising new trade barriers — but only for the next 12 months. Now according a Bloomberg report  Barack Obama may delay re-opening NAFTA.

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama, who threatened during the presidential campaign to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement unless he could renegotiate it, may delay reworking the accord as he focuses on the U.S. economic crisis.

After he becomes president in January, Obama will order a study on the world’s largest trade agreement, then seek longer- term negotiations with Mexico and Canada on how to change it, according to three advisers, who spoke on condition that they not be identified. A delay would be a victory for companies such as Caterpillar Inc., General Electric Co. andCitigroup Inc., which have tried to head off protectionism in the U.S.

Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day also voiced reluctance. “We don’t want to be putting any kind of a drag on a relationship with Nafta that has led to significant prosperity and job creation for both parties,” he said in an interview. So if no one wants protectionism across the board then health care should be on the table. Even Mexico has some form of private health care including private hospitals. Given that there are conflicting legal opinions concerning the extent to which Canada’s public health care system is exempted or protected from the obligations imposed by international trade liberalization agreements. Why in this day and age in 2008 Canada should be exempted from the very same agreements that all other member countries signed. By increasing the private component of Canada’s health care system the shield has eroded from full NAFTA national treatment requirements provided by the Annex I reservation. I am also calling attention to GATS commitments in health care sectors in the Doha. Canada has opened areas for-profit firms that were currently the sole preserve of nonprofit organizations. This was not the doing of any of the member countries of NAFTA this is home grown by Canada for Canada. Now the Government of Canada is saying we are still exempt how can that be. Does anybody else see the double standard here? Yes Canadian firms can open shops for private for profit health services. But all other countries need not apply. We may not be United Health Care yet but our complaint should non the less be taken seriously. Canada we demand compensation if your borders are closed for business.

Another thing that bothers me is so called trade experts such as T.J. Grierson-Weiler an adjunct professor of law at the University of Western Ontario. Who quotes “ It’s a shame he’s going to get a year of free press”. That is the most asinine thing I have heard if Mr. Weiler thinks Four Million Dollars is free in addition to One Hundred and Fifty Million Dollars on stand-by. Mr. Weiler could write me check right now case closed we would take our marbles and go home. “I guess some teach and some do”. Whether NAFTA is re-negotiated or kept the same is of no matter. As far as I am concerned either way its put this issue on the table. Speaking of expropriation in addition I will be sending Canada a bill for $3.7 Million dollars for one EBT machine. This machine stayed in a warehouse while the Province and the Federal Government of Canada argued over private health care. You can see the full Canadian Medical Association article here.