I was a fan of the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when it was created. But I quickly saw that Canada had been sold a bill of goods, and our country has repeatedly been the victim of bullying, fraud and trickery at the hands of our American neighbours over the years. As far as I am concerned, NAFTA can be ripped up and shredded, and replaced by trading under WTO rules.
Softwood lumber is just one of many issues that keep causing difficulties and friction between Canada and the U.S. Now that the Trump administration has decided to slap punitive tariffs on Canadian lumber, and both the British Columbian and Canadian governments are considering retaliatory measures, it is time Canadians took a step back and looked at all the options out there.
Even the most pro-American Canadians (e.g., Albertans) must have realized by now that Americans will only look out for themselves, no matter which party is in power south of the border. Both Republicans and Democrats are largely against free trade, and neither is particularly fond of Canada.
Sure, presidents have come and gone, and they have all had nice things to say about Canada when visiting Canada or receiving guests from Canada, but back on American soil, they only look out for America and no one else – not that there is anything wrong with that.
Americans may call Canadians “friends”, but Americans only make friends with other Americans. Being called “friend” or “cousin” is just an empty platitude. Canadians are well advised not to take such pleasantries at face value.
The current president, Donald Trump, is being attacked over his isolationist tendencies, but one should not forget that the “Buy American” concept was brought to life by his predecessor, Barack Obama, a Democrat. As further evidence, former president Jimmy Carter, also a Democrat, has crawled out of his coffin to let the world know that he, too, supports Trump’s punitive tariffs on Canadian lumber.
From a Canadian perspective, it is a lose-lose situation where relations with the U.S. are concerned. It is therefore time to cut our losses and embark on new adventures in the world.
China desperately wants a free-trade deal with Canada, but the conditions imposed by Beijing on such a deal are too outrageous and too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Translation: China would have to be given full access to Canada, while Canada’s access to China would be limited. Oh, and Canada would also have to keep its mouth shut about human rights violations in China (supposedly, because there aren’t any).
So, what else is Canada to do? Canada is a trading nation and must continue trading if it is to survive.
Well, here is a fact, conveniently ignored by most Canadians: Canada may be located in North America, but it is a European nation, especially Québec. This is what Canada is at its roots – and with the U.S. being unpredictable and hostile – before, during and after Donald Trump – we must go back to our roots and reaffirm our European-ness.
Canada and the European Union have already signed a free-trade agreement, but this could be taken further, particularly now that the EU is experiencing a lot of problems of its own.
In short, Canada should join the European Single Market and adopt it hook, line and sinker, including free movement – the way Switzerland and Norway have done. As a matter of fact, I could then see a future where Canada joined the EU as a member-state. (Adopting the euro currency would be optional.)
It is not a ridiculous proposition. Several in the EU have been toying with the idea of expanding the Union to territory outside the European continent, such as to North Africa. Such an undertaking is doomed to failure, because those regions are not really “European”, but Canada is European and would make a perfect addition to the EU.
Incidentally, Canada was the first “European union” in a manner of speaking. Canada is where the English, French, Italians, Portuguese, Germans, Dutch, Irish, Scots, etc. went to settle down and create a truly European union with two official languages (English and French). And the way Canada is structured, it pretty much works like the EU, with the provinces constituting the member-states (albeit more independent today than EU member-states), and Ottawa playing the role of Brussels.
For what it is worth, Canada’s joining the Single Market might even convince Britain to abandon Brexit. But even if Britain were to leave in the end, Canada would be an ideal candidate to fill the spot, being the offspring of Britannia – talking about the child taking over from the parent.
As for trade agreements, as an EU member, Canada would be part of a strong organization when negotiating trade deals with other parts of the world, including China.
A “Canada within the EU” could quickly evolve into some kind of economic superpower. American companies would relocate to Canada in droves in order to gain access to the European market. Companies from across South America would follow suit too.
And with the world’s second largest country joining its club, the EU – and thus all its member-states – would become the economic (and political) powerhouse that no one – including, and especially, the U.S. and China etc. – could afford to ignore or do without.