Renegotiating NAFTA: It’s not just for the US any more

It’s no secret that I am no fan of NAFTA, which is to free trade what George W. Bush is to entrepreneurship. So when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were talking about changes needing to be made, I yawned. (save the rustbelt, by contrast, looked up and said, “Now they understand?”) Then changes they want may not be my changes—Chapter 11 must go!—but the idea that a 14-year-old trade agreement should be kept sacrosanct confuses ceteris with paribus in a manner to shame Brad DeLong.

But, of course, “free trade” is sacred, and the candidates were attacked for even suggesting the possibility.

So when The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives pointed out that changes are needed in NAFTA to avoid harming Canada, I was inclined, again, to yawn. Expect that NAFTA apparently directly contravenes Canadian law:

The research also draws attention to the fact that even Alberta only has 8 years of established natural gas reserves remaining—in direct violation of its own legislation requiring a minimum 15 years of proven supply before any can be removed from the province. The report calls on the Alberta government to uphold its own policy.

The CCPA made it clear that renegotiation may well be a question of national secutiry:

“We looked at whether Canada could reduce exports for the sake of conservation or environmental policy, or whether we could prioritize our dwindling natural gas reserves for domestic value-added production, or even for household heating. We cannot. We cannot even guarantee eastern Canadians access to western crude,” says John Dillon, economic justice researcher at KAIROS and co-author of the report.

And, therefore, renegotiating the inappropriate aspects of NAFTA is something in the interest of the Canadians as well:

“Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have put NAFTA back on the table with their musings about re-negotiating or ripping up the agreement,” says co-author Gordon Laxer, a political economist at the University of Alberta. “The Canadian government must realize it is the only country in the world that has jeopardized the energy needs of its people in this way, and move quickly to exit the proportionality provisions of NAFTA.”

That press release and the accompanying PDF are four weeks old, a decade in blogsphere time. While Greg Mankiw leverages George Will to advocate indentured servitude (sad h/t to Spencer), the need to revisit “free trade agreements” goes unremarked.