Sunday, June 1, 2008

Some ideas on Canada's foreign and trade policy

As Canada continues to deal with the aftermath of the Bernier resignation and his ex-girlfriend's possible ties to organized crime, we need to have a serious debate about our foreign and trade policy -- one which has until recently had a great deal of respect around the world. Set aside the short term embarrassment. We need to look ahead to what kind of picture we want to project to the world.

We are strong allies of our NATO partners as well as Japan, Australia and New Zealand and will continue to be so. We also recognize the need to build bridges with countries we consider to be our enemies, including Russia and Mainland China. In that sense, being the "honest broker" kind of country. Yet all too often and especially in recent years, we've put trade ahead of human rights. We used to tie lowering of trade barriers and the debt of poorer countries to improvements in individuals rights and the insistence upon an independent judiciary and clear rules for corporate operations. What happened to that?

We support the state of Israel. This should continue as long as there is an Israel which God willing will be for all time. The issue of the Palestinians must be dealt with, however. Enforcing security against would be terrorists is one thing. Treating the entire population in the Occupied Territories with collective guilt and forcing them onto a separate road network (among other things) doesn't help those who want to live and let live. We must take a hard line with Fatah and Hamas, but to equate support for peaceful Palestinians with anti-Semitism as Stephen Harper has is just plain wrong. We need to reclaim our reputation as an "honest broker" before we're seen as nothing more than a satellite of the United States who supports only so-called "Zionism" and nothing else.

In terms of Africa and Latin America and to some extent Asia, we have dropped the ball when it comes to development goals. It's just wrong as Harper has suggested to give up on some countries as lost causes -- those lost cause states breed the next generation of terrorists. (This attitude is just as narcissist as his infamous "culture of defeatism" remark when he dismissed Atlantic Canadians some years back and it showed itself in his recalculating the equalization formula.) In this department, we as a nation now that we are in the trillion dollar GDP club are more than capable of hitting a 0.7% GDP target. $7 billion for foreign aid may sound like a lot, but aimed at viable projects designed to build self-sufficiency, it could go a long way to meeting the 2015 development goals set by the United Nations.

Finally, we need to have a bigger picture when it comes to trade and to really think big. Beyond NAFTA, Israel, Chile, Peru and Central America, we need to recognize that we can't put most of our eggs in with the United States. Given our historical ties, agreements with Australia and New Zealand could be considered.

We should also consider going beyond our agreement with EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and try for some kind of agreement with the 27 members of the EU. I have suggested this before but as America continues to sink into economic morass it looks like Europe may increasingly be our future when it comes to exports. By no means does this mean at some point we would join the Schengen Area (which would mean even tighter border controls with the US, and crossing the border right now is getting to be a hassle), nor does it mean we'd drop the loonie for the Euro (it's kind of nice to have our own currency as a hedge in addition to the greenback) . What it would mean is that we would present ourselves as a country with an open door policy unlike the US which is rapidly becoming a dictatorship under the influence of the close-minded like Lou Dobbs who dismiss any reasonable trade agreement as a "sellout" or honest attempts at immigration reform as "amnesty." Common labour and environmental standards would also mean efficiencies in production meaning more employment opportunities.

Basic bottom line, we need to think big again. We're not getting that right now.

Vote this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: