OTTAWA â€” Americans' privileged access to Canada's massive oil and gas reserves could be disrupted if Washington cancels the NAFTA accord as Democratic presidential candidates threaten, Canadian Trade Minister David Emerson warned yesterday.
"There's no doubt if NAFTA were to be reopened we would want to have our list of priorities," he said.
Canada and the United States have free trade in energy because the accord effectively prohibits discriminatory export controls on oil and gas. Mr. Emerson's comments come after Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton promised Tuesday to withdraw the United States from the North American free-trade agreement after taking office, unless the deal was completely renegotiated.
The pact has become a target for criticism by U.S. unions, which blame it for the disappearance of thousands of jobs, but studies have repeatedly shown that trade has thrived and all three NAFTA signatories have benefited since the deal took effect in 1994.
But Mr. Emerson said reopening the deal would open a can of worms, with new demands for changes from all countries. He said one beef Canada would have is the deal's dispute-resolution mechanism, which failed to solve the long-running softwood trade war between Ottawa and Washington.
"If you reopen [NAFTA] for one or two issues, you cannot avoid reopening it across a range of issues," he said.
He scoffed at Democratic suggestions that they want to toughen labour and environmental provisions, saying: "I don't think the United States has got anything to teach Canada about labour and the environment."
So my first thought is, could this a greater focus on more environmentally friendly technology? Emerson is correct in that this is more than a simple matter of resolving a few issues in favour of the States. It isn't like there is nothing we'd like to see adjusted North of the line. And if they are so keen on improving labour and environment, making oil and gas more expensive would certainly force the hand of industries to find ways of using less of it more affordably, which, if we sincerely believe in global warming, you would think would be happening more quickly.