ANALYSIS: Reviewing Ontario Premier Wynne’s pro-NAFTA Speech in D.C.

ONTARIO PREMIER KATHLEEN WYNNE NationalPost.com photo

Will key groundwater issues ever officially become part of trade deals like NAFTA?

By Awakening Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a Sept. 14 speech about the North American Free Trade Agreement in Washington D.C., the premier of Canada’s most populous province argued that while the NAFTA trade treaty is a “net” blessing to the U.S. and Canada, a better social safety net is needed to help those who’ve been injured by free trade or otherwise missed out on its stated benefits.

And while that upgraded safety net will have several new or improved things stitched into it, the central theme of Ontario leader Kathleen Wynne’s address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies was that formerly-protectionist Canada has “seen the light.”

As a result, she feels Canada is—and will remain—an enthusiastic advocate of free trade, especially in terms of Ontarian trade arrangements with Michigan, New York and several other states.

In giving this Thomas O. Enders Memorial Lecture—honoring the late Enders, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada—Wynne noted that, starting in 1976, he’s the one who began the negotiation process to challenge and phase out Canada’s longtime protectionism. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

NAFTA, which came along in the early 1990s and was signed in the U.S. by President Bill Clinton, is now more than 20 years old. Wynne feels that, although “NAFTA 2.0” is being negotiated, the trade and investment treaty should not be dissolved—despite White House skepticism.

“Enders made the case for free trade between the U.S. and Canada”—even before NAFTA, as Wynne told the Washington audience. “A generation ago, the U.S. was selling weary Canada on the benefits of lowering tariffs and barriers; today President Trump is casting doubt on NAFTA . . . [but] there’s no question that free trade has been a net good for our people.”

In Wynne’s view, there’s a connection between Canada lowering its import taxes (tariffs) in 1994 and an increase in jobs and wages. She added that, nearly 24 years later, it’s wrong, in her opinion, to blame free trade for whatever economic ills exist.

“The economy has changed [but] blaming trade misses the point,” she remarked, while repeatedly defending the trade regime from naysayers, and arguing that a reinvigorated emphasis on free trade in the three NAFTA countries—which also includes Mexico—is the ticket to continued prosperity for all, as she sees it.

NAFTA’s benefits, in her estimation, “are real and shared” between Canada and the U.S.

“Nearly 9 million U.S. jobs are tied to trade and investment with Canada,” she went on to say, while criticizing the “Buy American” movement pushed by the Trump administration, including a “Buy American” provision that had been including in New York state legislation, but was removed.

Wynne added that Canada’s Leland Industries, a maker of nuts, bolts, screws etc. “invested $46 million in Illinois last year,” while also saying that, between Ontario and Michigan, there’s a “deeply integrated automotive supply chain” that’s mutually beneficial. And Canada’s researchers, she noted, lead the way in developing low-carbon vehicles, in light of the “climate change” issue.

GOVERNORS’ SUMMIT UPCOMING: WHAT ABOUT WATER ISSUES?

In this second trip of hers to Washington, Wynne met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, yet since January, she also met with, or spoke to, 25 state governors in the U.S.

“We recently met with the governor of Nebraska [Pete Ricketts],” she remarked, although in her D.C. speech, she only briefly mentioned the need for Great Lakes stewardship in general terms, but did not mention crucial groundwater issues.

Limiting her remarks to surface waters, Wynne simply told a Washington moderator that the Great Lakes and other waterways “are pretty ‘definitional’ to who we are” and that Canada and the U.S. have a “responsibility to make sure these waterways are protected.”

However, groundwater issues, according to The Awakening’s own research, should play a large role in trade issues but do not, according to what’s been discerned so far. Examples of why this matters abound, including:

  • The fact that conventional flow-through fish farms (hatcheries), like the big water bottlers, use massive amounts of groundwater. These farms are especially relevant to trade, since the Canadian and American groundwater that supports the fish raised in hatcheries for export may get heavily depleted over time—especially if NAFTA and other trade pacts ignore water-usage issues right when such massive usage is taking place.

Notably, it remains to be seen whether Wynne, Nebraska Gov. Ricketts, Michigan Gov. Snyder and others will help determine precisely how many gallons it takes to raise a pound of fish—which is the key starting point when it comes to this subject. We do know the gallon amount is massive, making hatcheries one of the biggest unacknowledged groundwater-users in the world. The health of natural bait fish populations and the oceans themselves also is related. [See radio links on this website for more details]

Perhaps the most important observation is that any nation involved in a trade deal that uses disproportionately large amounts of groundwater to produce fish or other produce/production should be compensated for the related costs, which means a clearer, more precise value on groundwater needs to be calculated. Otherwise, heavy water usage for trade represents an overlooked component of the trade deficit.

  • And besides that, Nestle mines groundwater for $3.71 per million liters from Ontario aquifers, to sell it in plastic bottles at a 3,000% profit, when even the bottles themselves present a major environmental-waste issue, let alone such heavy water usage.

And while Wynne noted in Washington that she has a good working relationship with Gov. Snyder, she announced that in October she’ll be joining Gov. Snyder and others at a Detroit, Michigan-Windsor, Ontario international summit October 20-22, 2017.

That summit’s schedule and general information is available by clicking this link. Its formal name is the “Leadership Summit of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers.”

But this isn’t the first time Wynne has met with Michigan Gov. Snyder. The two met this past spring as well. According to a Windsor Star account, Snyder and Wynne have been very intent on increasing cross-border ties.

“Preserving and expanding Ontario and Michigan’s strong automotive manufacturing linkages, along with environmental stewardship of the Great Lakes, were the main topics of discussion between Wynne and Snyder,” the Star noted, about the basic water issues covered in March.

That March summit and Wynne’s Washington remarks have happened amid questions about President Trump’s pledge to reopen NAFTA-trade talks, possibly with new border taxes and a U.S. plan to create more jobs domestically. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in March that Canadians and Mexicans “know . . . everybody knows . . . that times are different . . . and they all know they’re going to have to make concessions.”

Just like she told the Washington think tank at her Sept. 14 NAFTA speech, Wynne said back in March that it’s at the “subnational level” where “the rubber hits the road” in free trade arrangements, while also saying Ontario is Michigan’s top customer worldwide with around 259,000 Michigan jobs supported by trade with Canada. About “91 percent of that is with Ontario,” the Star noted.

What’s missed in all of this, however, is that, in terms of the U.S. Constitution, state officials from the U.S. technically are not supposed to be international diplomats and treaty-makers.

Yet, American state and national government officials involved in trade negotiations generally avoid discussing that fundamental angle. While Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution reserves trade powers with foreign nations, Indian tribes and between the states to Congress, the process has become more multifaceted and in some respects “subnational,” just as Wynne described it.

NAFTA SAFETY-NET DETAILS

In rounding out her Washington speech, Wynne noted that three Ontario communities are going to try Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a test program, to see what effect boosting purchasing power has on a province that has suffered some NAFTA-related setbacks.

While a UBI proposal was narrowly voted down a few years ago in Switzerland, there’s a growing consensus that, with the advent of widespread robotics, automated production and artificial-intelligence applications, measures are needed to provide supplemental income to combine with salaries and wages and recognize technology’s displacement of human labor as a production factor. But, evidently, the UBI test will be done in a manner that is not a conventional rules-based welfare program.

So, one open question is whether UBI would be combined with a change in central bank practices, including monetary policy, where Ontario would not just tax and spend to provide UBI, but instead would create new money at little to no cost, in order to provide it. In so doing, might Canada revisit its banking system that ran from 1938 to 1974? During that time, the Bank of Canada, operating much more for the general well-being of the public than it does today, issued credit virtually interest-free. That spurred the development of the Trans-Canada highway and the universal health-care system.

Also, Wynne noted that renewed efforts are being made to improve the healthcare system, along with plans being put in place for a $15 per-hour minimum wage in Ontario over the next 18 months. Furthermore, enhanced pension plans are in the works—all of which represent extra measures to stitch together a stronger safety net in this age of free trade.