Virtue Signalling On NAFTA Is Bad Economic Policy

The Liberals appear to be focused on using NAFTA to further a progressive social agenda at the expense of Canada's economic interest.  

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Virtue Signalling Hurting Negotiations

The NAFTA renegotiations are heading into a critical phase. Both the United States and Mexico would like to conclude the process in the first quarter of 2018 because of the Mexican presidential election campaign in the second quarter of the year.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals appear to be focused on using NAFTA to further a progressive social agenda at the expense of Canada’s economic interest.  

There are a number of social issues that progressives feel should be addressed under NAFTA. Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna, pulled off the hypocritical liberal double play in discussing the talks. She attacked Donald Trump and highlighted her file as a priority in the discussions:

But Catherine McKenna says Trump’s “heated rhetoric” won’t stop Canada from promoting its interests, which include protecting its water, air, land, and animals from the impacts of climate change.

Typical of the vapidity of regressive liberals to signal their belief in environmental issues without any concrete proposals. McKenna misses the point on the environment.

Mutal Co-Operation

Brian Mulroney and George H.W. Bush signed the greatest advance ever on the environment file in North American history in reducing acid rain while negotiating NAFTA. Environmental agreements don’t have to be part of trade agreements.

Canadian demands for social issues as part of trade agreements weakens their hand on economic issues.  

The most bizarre alleged social demand by Trudeau’s Liberals deals with American employment laws. According to the Globe and Mail:

One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request. Canada believes that lower labour standards in the United States and Mexico, including the right to work, give those countries an unfair advantage in attracting jobs.

This is an absolutely ridiculous negotiating point. There are 28 right-to-work states in America. Trump won 26 of them in the November election. It is not clear if a presidential ban on right-to-work state laws could withstand the inevitable judicial challenges.

It makes no sense for Canada to bring an absolute non-starter of an issue to the negotiating table unless the goal is to signal to the union movement that the Liberal government is on their side. Sadly it’s another example of Liberal virtue signaling that goes against Canada’s economic interests for dubious political gain.

Lack of Logic

Justin illustrated his willingness to put forth arguments without any logical support as quoted by the Globe and Mail:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is crucial to include protections for women in the renegotiated North American free-trade agreement because gender equality is an economic issue.

A social issue isn’t an economic issue simply because Justin says it is. How is this issue an economic issue? Pushing progressive policy will hurt Canada’s bargaining position again for a toothless side agreement, but it will again signal the Liberal’s supposed bona fides to swing NDP-Liberal voters.  

Mr. Trudeau said he has heard criticisms of his government’s plan – not from U.S. trade negotiators but from conservatives in Canada, who argue that proposals to address issues such as gender equality, environmental protection, and Indigenous rights in NAFTA talks are just “rhetorical flourishes” and that he should be focusing on jobs and economic issues.

Justin is absolutely right on the concerns of conservatives in Canada. Jobs and economic issues should be the key points of any trade agreement. Hopefully, voters teach Justin that lesson in 2019 and the Conservatives return to power in the federal election that year.


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Burt Schoeppe

Burt is a dedicated CPA based in Edmonton. When not at work assessing financial competencies he can be found cheering for the Oilers or the Redskins. In terms of the economy, he advocates for fiscal responsibility at all levels of government.

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