Canada looks to Europe in anticipation of Obama protectionism

  • What is Obama’s plans with NAFTA? He has previously threatened to withdraw the USA as a way to force Canada and Mexico to make concessions. Is this merely bluster?
  • Do the SDMB Obama voters agree that NAFTA should be renegotiated – presumable for terms more favourable to the USA?
  • What happens if Canada and Mexico will hear nothing of it, which I guess is very likely. Would you then back USA withdrawal from NAFTA?
  • Is Obama protectionist? If so do you support more US trade protectionism?

oh. And welcome Canada. I hope Brussels bureaucrats become you. But I look forward to being able to move as easy to Canada as I could to France, but I tell you - we don’t want any lumberjacks in Brussels!

I certainly like Obama, but protectionism is one area where Democrats have traditionally excelled. Harper is already on record as saying that if the US wants to open up NAFTA for re-negotiation, fine, but energy will be on the table. And you can count on some hard negotiations.

I think that most people in Canada will welcome any efforts to open up more trade with Europe (and Asia as well). This last meltdown has shown us (again) that it is not in our best interests to depend to heavily on a single trading partner.

And what’s wrong with Lumberjacks? I’ve always wanted to be a lumberjack! Just think, leaping from tree to tree as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia! The Fir! The Larch! The Redwood! The mighty Scots Pine!

Not even if they put on women’s clothing and hang around in bars?

I think Obama is lying about this whole “renegotiating NAFTA” thing. He pretty much has to be.

I hope so, because free trade used to be my litmus test, but the loathsome Republican brand has basically made them dead in my eyes. Fortunately for Obama I think he is smart enough to not be protectionist too badly (if at all).

Good thing he has a more nuanced view than simply “throw NAFTA out”.

Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all

June 18/08 interview with Fortune

Personally, I like politicians who are willing to change their minds when confronted with reality.

We do not have lumberjacks in British Columbia. We have forestry workers who do not wear red plaid. and they cut and deliver Fir Hemlock and Spruce and Cedar and deliver by truck. Redwoods are mostly in California.

You guys from the east tsk tsk:rolleyes::smiley:

I don’t believe our negotiating a trade deal with the EU has anything to do with potential American protectionism. It’s just good sense. Why on earth should we have barriers to trade between Canada and the EU? They’re bad for both of us.

That said, the rumblings about NAFTA are something of a concern. I don’t believe that many people take them very seriously, though. Does the US really want to renegotiate a deal that gives them guaranteed access to our oil and natural gas? Not likely.

This is sorta funny. I am one of the many, many, many Canucks who think we got the shafta in Nafta. Sure, let’s open it up and put our cards on the table. I’m in favour of that. Maybe Mr. Harper won’t get steamrollered. We can hope.

However, I have always been certain that the US regards Canada as a kind of deep freeze or storage cupboard, and when you really need the stuff in there, you will get it, one way or the other.

I’m somewhat doubtful that anything was formally negotiated recently. The Francophonie summit was held in Canada over the past weekend; I’m sure that among the talks, somebody Canadian said to somebody European (or vice versa), “You know, we really should be working more closely on trade,”* and the idea escalated until they formally agreed to talk about it further. That’s the impression I get from the WSJ article and last night’s CBC radio newscast about the Francophonie wrapup, anyway.

I seem to recall this being discussed some time ago on the SDMB, when Obama first said he’d renegotiate NAFTA. The consensus then, IIRC, was that unilateral renegotiation on the USA’s part was impossible, mainly because you cannot negotiate by yourself, and if Canada and Mexico refused to participate, Obama and the US would be stuck. Of course, it is possible for the US to pull out of NAFTA, but again, my understanding (and I could be wrong) is that there is a lengthy notice period for this and so Obama would have to deal with it for some time anyway. My search-fu is weak today; does anybody else recall that thread?

Note that this being said at the Francophonie summit, it was probably said in French, not English as here.

I think Canada would do well to negotiate trade with the EU and Asia also. Putting all our eggs in the American basket is a risky business idea when things are great, and a terrible idea when things are bad. I don’t think Obama will be renegotiating NAFTA too much, either - the trade between Canada and the US goes both ways. It’s like the talk about some US cities not using oil sands oil - you can say what you like, but when you need oil, you’ll buy the oil regardless of where it came from.

Why, They don’t seem to mind us in Germany ? :smiley:

If protectionist means selling Mexico down the polluted river again ,I am not for it. The provisions to have wages raise in Mexico and to have environmental laws enforced were ignored .So the Mexicans were exploited for cheap labor and lax environmental regulation. How does that help them? You can figure how that hurt American workers. You can also see that it was a boon to corporations. Screwed the American worker ,though didn’t it.
A fair deal would have helped the standard of living and made immigration less of a problem. They leave to work here because they get hosed in Mexico.

I’m quite worried about U.S. protectionism rising under an Obama administration, for several reasons:

  1. If he raises taxes the way he says he wants to, Canada is going to have lower overall taxes than the U.S, and significantly lower business taxes (50% vs 15%). This is going to put a lot of pressure on U.S. investment and jobs. You’ll see more U.S. corporations opening manufacturing centers in Canada. If the Canadian dollar stays where it is, that’s an even bigger benefit to us.

  2. If Obama wins, The Employee Free Choice Act will pass next year. This means an end to the secret ballot in union drives, and the largest expansion of union power since the Wagner Act in 1935. You can expect the size of the union workforce to double. And they’re not free traders.

  3. The economy is going in the dumper, and whenever unemployment goes up, foreigners tend to get blamed. In the last recession, the Japanese were taking over.

My biggest worry right now is that we’re seeing a repeat of 1929. A market crash and a crisis of confidence causes a populist uprising, which results in a big government liberal taking power and promptly taking what would be a short but deep recession and turning it ten years of misery due to misguided protectionism, tax increases, and stupid interventions in the economy.

Every man in Belgium does this already - they don’t need competition from outsiders.

You’re one of the many Canadians who’re wrong, then. NAFTA has been an absolute cash cow for Canada. Getting rid of it would be a disaster and would jack unemployment figures up.

More free trade is fine with me. I hope we pursue free trade with the EU no matter what happens with the USA (and I’d bet money an Obama administration will do very little to US-Canada trade relations.) I’d like to see us open up free trade with Australia and Japan and New Zealand. Drop them tariffs, I say.

Sam, if I can comment on your points:

  1. This seems like a benefit to us, not a drawback.

  2. I will bet you one thousand dollars that union membership does not double in the United States under an Obama administration. No, I’ll bet you TEN thousand dollars. I’ll give you two to one odds.

  3. Well, this doesn’t really have much to do with Barack Obama. 2009 will be a recession no matter what.

Obama’s protectionist blather bothers me too - but it’s probably just blather. I don’t think his administration will be any more protectionist than Bush’s, which is to say not much at all except for the odd high-profile, mostly-symbolic act.

Oh, it is. But it’s also the kind of thing that causes demands for protectionism. The first time a major factory is shut down in the U.S. and opened in Canada, there will be calls to ‘do something’ about it.

In another thread, I ran the tax numbers to see the U.S. was going to come close to ‘socialist’ Canada (another user’s term - not mine), and was surprised to find that if Obama gets the tax increases and regulations he’s said he’s going to do, the U.S. is actually going to have a tax policy significantly to the left of Canada’s, and a labor policy that no longer has any advantages. Good for Canada, bad for the U.S. Unfortunately, I don’t see that situation being allowed to continue once a recession hits and people really start feeling the pain. We’re going to get scapegoated just like we have been over prescription drug prices, and there will be calls for protectionism. And those calls will come most loudly from big labor, which Obama is quite fond of.

Doubling might be a slight exaggeration, but I expect a big jump. Canada’s labor force is almost 30% unionized. The U.S’s is about 7% unionized. The difference is that they have right to work states and secret ballots, which limits union power. Obama wants to do away with both of those, and he wants to make it really easy for companies to unionize, and once unionized he wants to make it impossible to get rid of the union.

Think about that when a recession hits and employees start to get laid off or suffer pay rollbacks. All these employees have to do to ‘protect’ themselves is for half of them to check a box marked ‘yes’ while their co-workers pressure them, and they’re unionized. And then the employers hands are completely tied.

Yes, but the President’s political philosophy will determine how the recession is responded to. FDR responded with higher taxes, ‘public works’ projects, and tariffs. Reagan responded by cutting taxes and trade tariffs. Obama’s more FDR than Reagan.

Obama is strongly pro-labor. Labor issues are a centerpiece of his campaign. I find that particularly hard to reconcile with free trade. Big labor is one of his major constituencies, and they will be putting major pressure on him - more so if there’s a recession. I wish I could be as sanguine as you, and I hope you’re right, but I see little evidence of it. And as Canadians, that should be our biggest worry from an Obama administration. If the U.S. takes a protectionist turn, it will hurt us at least as much as it hurts them.

I’ve no doubt you’re right that those calls will come along, but I don’t think Obama will heed them. It’ll take more than a moderate Democrat to change the winds of trade policy.

Protectionism worries me, too, but ultimately business interests will win out. The current trade status will be more or less the status quo for the foreseeable future.

Every cite I can find says the U.S. percentage is 12.5%.

That’s an oversimplification of the EFCA, and in any case it’s Congress that’s trying to pass it.

I really don’t for an instant believe the EFCA will result in massive union increases. The USA simply isn’t fertile ground for that sort of thing, and in any event, the connection between that and free trade opposition is tenuous. You claim unions don’t like free trade, but the truth is it depends what industry they’re in… and if it’s bad for a particulary industry, that industry will fight it anyway.

Opposition to free trade, if I may be perfectly frank, comes from the ignorant, not any particular social or economic sector.

Forst of all, it was Hoover who signed the Smoot-Hawley Act, not FDR, so let’s ensure we’re apportioning blame to the right places.

Secondly… SHIT no, Sam. Obama is far, far closer to Reagan than FDR. You’re mistaking political affiliation for similarity. Democrats and Republicans in 1933 are not necessarily similar to their counterparts today; the times and issues are different. The USA is different. I don’t agree with Obama on everything, but he is smart, and he does show a tendency to learn from experience and listen to those who are in the know. Every economic advisor he’s got will be telling him to keep trade free, and I think he’s wily enough to follow their advice. Oh, he’ll throw a protectionist bone or two like Bush did.

I mixed numbers. That’s what I get for relying on memory. I think the 12.5% includes government employees, and the 7% is non-government. But then, the Canadian number I used also included government employees, so to compare apples to apples it’s 30% to 12.5%.

But a President has to sign it, and Obama has already signalled support for it. In fact, it’s a promise of his campaign. It’'s a virtual certainty that this will become law if Obama is elected and Democrats get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. The EFCA makes it ridiculously easy for workers to unionize, even if almost half of them don’t want to. And once certified, it makes it impossible for employers to go around the union. Couple that with a recession where workers fear for their jobs and benefits, and you’ve got a pretty fertile breeding ground for unions. I don’t know what the exact percentage increase will be - certainly it will happen over a long period of time - massive changes to the composition of the work force don’t happen overnight. It will take years.

However, there’s one case I’d watch very closely - Wal-Mart. I’d lay better than even odds that Wal-Mart winds up unionized, and if it does, that alone will be a signficant factor - 800,000 employees unionizing.

Are you saying that Democrats are more ignorant than Republicans? Free trade deals are generally opposed by Democrats vs Republicans in the House and Senate by a wide margin. The Peru free trade deal was opposed by 116 Democrats and only 16 Republicans.

I don’t think it’s ignorance - I think it’s naked self-interest. Democrats oppose trade deals because they are supported by big labor. Big labor generally opposes free trade because, while it’s no doubt good for the country as a whole, it’s often bad for highly paid union workers who are not competitive with non-union workers in other countries.

Right you are. He also increased taxes.

Here we’re going to have to disagree. In trying to figure out where a candidate is coming from, I tend to ignore anything said during the general election, as both sides have to run to the center as fast as they can. I’d rather look at things like their voting records and stated positions before they ran for President. And Obama looks very liberal to me. Far more so than Clinton was. Even more than Carter was when he was president (but about the same as Carter today).

You’ve got more faith than I do. He won’t just be listening to his advisors - he’ll be listening to both leaders of Congress, who will have pressure on them to push for more protectionism (although to be fair, Pelosi seems to be more of a free trader than Harry Reid, so maybe there will be a bit of balance).

Anyway, there’s no point speculating. We’ll find out soon enough.

I have to admit that, in principle, you’re not explaining to me very well why that’s a bad thing.

You may not like unions, but if more than half the workforce wants one, then so be it.

On this specific issue, that would be a logical conclusion on the face of it, though of course the 538 members of Congress are not a terrific data sample and politicians generally vote for whatever keeps them in power, not what they personally believe in. As you say, naked self-interest. But politicians are a pretty tiny slice of the whole; I was referring to people in general. I’ve never met a person who didn’t like NAFTA who could verbalize an argument against it that was based on fact.

True enough.

Look, Obama can’t “unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA,” that being an oxymoron. You’re right, we’ll see soon enough, but unless there is a massive global shift away from free trade - which I don’t see happening, but I guess you never know - NAFTA will remain in place, and I’ll put money on it.

But I’ll tell you this, too; if there is a sudden worldwide raising of tariff barriers, a la Smoot-Hawley, I’m getting a lot of bottled water, survival gear, canned foods and a gun, because Depression II / World War III is not totally impossible. I’d suggest you do the same.