The Frying Pan or the Fire: Trump’s Tariffs Should Kill NAFTA Now

After the 7th round of bargaining on NAFTA concluded March 5 with agreement on just 6 of 30 chapters, it comes as no surprise that US President Trump has upped the ante with threats of 25% tariffs on Canadian steel and 10% on aluminum. Trump thinks this will force Canada to agree to its demands on NAFTA.

In fact, it’s another reason for Canada to pull out of NAFTA right now, and end the US monopoly on Canadian trade and investment policies.  

Over 80% of Canada’s trade is with the US, and the Canadian economy is shot through with US investment and ownership. Energy is an obvious example. But so is steel. The long struggle of workers in Hamilton, Ontario to protect their pensions and jobs against US Steel is part of Canadian labour history. This is a company whose main interest was to close down the competition in Canada and cut off thousands of pensioners and widows who were owed their retirement by this US multi-national corporation. It was always about profits, and so it is now too.

Trump’s tariffs are intended to scare Canada into accepting US demands on NAFTA by threatening Canadian jobs in steel and aluminum, and related production in manufacturing including auto. Tariffs would increase costs on manufacturers and consumers in both the US and Canada. It would also cost jobs on both sides of the border, but more in the US, where  manufacturing employs many more workers. Canada is also a big supplier of steel and aluminum for the US war machine. For all of these reasons and more, there is strong opposition to Trump’s proposed tariffs inside the US as well as outside.

Trump’s tweets that he will exclude Canada from the tariffs if Canada will agree to US demands on NAFTA is a solution for US corporations and interests, but it’s no solution for Canadian workers. This is a lose/lose option when the choice is the frying pan or the fire.

It’s time Trudeau said “NO” to Trump. It’s time the Canadian government spoke up for Canada’s national interests and sovereignty, and stopped bowing down to the most reactionary, xenophobic, and  pro-war imperialist powers in the world.

Canada is a wealthy country with plenty of options for trade. It’s time we adopted a fair trade policy, based on mutually beneficial and multi-lateral trade with the world.  

It’s time we adopted a foreign policy of peace, and mutual security based on multi-lateral nuclear disarmament.

It’s also time that the Canadian government ended the one-sided and arrested development of Canada as a supplier of raw materials and resources for the US and as a market for US value added products.

A sustainable industrial policy that focuses on value added manufacturing, including a machine tool industry, a domestic steel industry, an appliance industry, agricultural implements, ship-building, transportation and aerospace, housing construction, would put Canadian workers to work while developing the economy and the country in the national interest – instead of the transnational interests of the US and the supra-national global corporations.

This is a stark choice for voters in the 2019 federal election, just 18 months away. In the meantime, public opinion must be mobilized to stop NAFTA now. The government and Parliament must know that Canadians will remember what they did on NAFTA in 2018.

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