Free Trade?

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Free Trade?
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About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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Given all of the talk about NAFTA, CETA, and more recently talks with China, I am not sure about you, but I would appreciate an honest appraisal of just what the impact of ‘Free’ Trade has been on the MAJORITY of Canadians, as distinct from the paternalistic approach thrust upon us by both the federal and provincial government, amounting to daddy knows best.

I say this because I can distinctly recall the promises made by Brian Mulroney back in the 1980’s. How free trade was going to create all of these high paying jobs in such so called growth sectors as pharmaceuticals. As if. Provide a boost to our economy by giving us access to larger markets. Yet, somehow failing to mention how ‘free’ trade would empower corporations to the point where one has to wonder if nation states are at grave risk of becoming obsolete.

Of course, many of these ‘promises’ proved to be categorically false. Besides which, at the risk of committing heresy, there is no such thing as FREE trade. It is a con job. The hard truth is everything comes at a price. And so, what ensues is none other than a lot of horse trading. We will let you have access to our market for this, if you allow us to sell that.

Now, all of this might be acceptable if it wasn’t for the fact do you really want to grow dependent on foreign countries for such essential goods as food? Not to mention how wise is it to provide the world’s largest water bottling companies such as Europe boasts with unlimited access to our water supply. Especially at a time that Environment Canada is forecasting water shortages!

Should we be forfeiting our right to grow our own food and safeguard our water supply at a time when the world is becoming increasingly unstable, conflict laden, and depleted of vital natural resources? Quite truly, our agriculture sector has become our sacrificial lamb? Don’t believe me, talk to a sheep farmer sometime, or any farmer for that matter. Most are getting fleeced at the bargaining tables.
And please do not be fooled by labels in your grocery store when it says a product is made in Canada, because in many instances it is the food container or packaging that is made in Canada. More often than not, the fruit juice comes from developing countries. Ones that blatantly dumped their fruit on our market knowing full well it would wipe out many of our orchards.

Moreover, it isn’t just agriculture that is getting hammered, but our manufacturing sector as well. Just so it doesn’t seem like I am picking on Pacific Rim countries, how can Canadian firms hope to compete against giant US firms that are getting their products made by what is essentially slave labour i.e. prison labourers making 22 cents an hour. These corporations comprised of many Fortune 500 companies.

Worse still, when our governments try and grow our manufacturing industry it is stopped by NAFTA. Such as was the case with Dalton McGuinty’s bold vision with Green Energy. What happened? Companies that were already starting to invest in Ontario to manufacture high tech renewable energy products were challenged by NAFTA and prevented from doing so.

All of this by way of saying, at the end of the day ‘Free Trade’ is just a misleading sales gimmick designed to con a naïve and unsuspecting public into thinking they are getting something for nothing. When in actual fact, as is the case with all international trade deals, there are winners and losers. Suffice it to say, the middle class aren’t at the top of the winners list.

The fact these deals are being negotiated under a veil of secrecy shouldn’t inspire a great deal of confidence, especially given the cozy relationship that existing between political parties and business big wigs. Does anyone honestly believe a business person would be forking over hundreds thousands of dollars to talk about the weather? Better think again.

Bottom line, if we are to have any hope of creating a culture of health and wellbeing, we need to do more than invest in education for the simple reason it is pointless in the absence of half decent employment opportunities. Rather, we need to make a daring and radical shift towards increased sovereignty of generating our own essential goods and services.