OTTAWA--This is the message of a paper released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The paper, From Deep Integration to Reclaiming Sovereignty: Managing Canada-U.S. Economic Relations under NAFTA, is authored by CCPA executive director Bruce Campbell.
Campbell says that proposals advocated by business leaders and many in the policy establishment are neither necessary nor desirable. "These are same people who brought us the FTA and NAFTA. They dismiss these treaties' negative effects and failed promises as they push ahead with their deep integration agenda and are never up front about what kind of Canada would exist at the end of it all."
He proposes an alternative to the deep integration approach, which he calls the deliberate pursuit of small steps. "It is a strategy for a progressive government to improve the economic and social well-being of its citizens, and manage its economic relationship with the United States so as to slow down, reshape, or reverse the integration process. It is a strategy whose cumulative effect may over time be a government prepared to challenge NAFTA in key areas where national interests take precedence."
The author cautions that trade is a means, not an end. "Trade is a tool, and equitable, sustainable development is the goal. Free traders confuse the two. They automatically assume that international trade and investment are unconditionally good, and more is automatically better. This is not so. Trade may bring benefits, but it may also do great harm. It depends on the nature of the products, on the terms and conditions of their production and exchange. A progressive government must always keep this distinction in mind as it considers policies to enhance the well-being of its citizens.
"Canada should conduct its economic relations with the United States in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, as befits friendly sovereign neighbours with many interlocking interests, not like a colonial supplicant," concludes Campbell.
"We should not allow ourselves to be duped once again by those who want to take another 'leap of faith' that will lock Canada ever more tightly into the American orbit. The negative record of the last 15 years of 'free trade' should be reason enough for us not to continue down this path.