Updated Free Trade Deal Threatens Canada's Independence

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A clause contained in the updated free trade deal between Canada, the United States and Mexico, has caused raised brows among concerned citizens who fear the clause could pose a threat to Canada’s freedom as a nation and its ability to conduct trade with China in the future.

The clause, clause 32, states that “at least three months prior to commencing negotiations, a party shall inform the other parties of its intention to commence free trade agreement negotiations with a non-market country.” This clause has raised questions due to the fact that experts have stated that the only non-market economy which Canada might want to deal with in near future is China. It is therefore suspected, that this clause might be an attempt by the U.S to sabotage any developing trade relationships between Canada and China, before it could occur.

International trade strategist Peter Clark confirmed this. Speaking to Global News,he says, “This relates to China, and it says that if Canada is going to be negotiating a trade agreement with China, they have to keep them [the U.S.] up to date.”

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau however, do not seem to attach any much importance to clause 32, arguing that it might never actually be used. This is probably due to the fact that experts agree that China and Canada aren’t ready to have a trade deal yet anyway.

However, whenever, they finally decide to, it believed that the clause may impede its progress. Clark insists that it is interference, and claims, “It’s there because somebody will want to use it.” He continued, “It’s just the concept of the United States trying to exercise supervision — to put a polite word on it — of Canadian trade efforts with China… That’s just too hands on.”

Other experts have supported this notion. Bernard Wolf, a professor emeritus of economics and international business at York University says even though this clause has its hidden consequences, the consequences are more targeted at China that at Canada, “this really has nothing to do with Canada or Mexico; this has to do with another cannonball directed at China.”

An international lawyer and public policy counsellor, Lawrence L. Herman, speaking on the issue, says, “For one thing, when you enter into negotiations you have to respect confidentiality,” he said. There’s a requirement not to negotiate in public and not to share protective or confidential information that is disclosed during the course of the discussions.” He argues that clause 32 is a little too extreme when compared to the usual limits to the sovereignty of nations found in similar agreements.

“That’s a very unusual agreement, a very unusual provision, almost in my experience unprecedented,” he explained.

“What [the U.S.] wanted was at least some allies in their fight with China and this was a way of ensuring that Canada and Mexico at least shared information when it came to dealings with China.”

Clark, comments that he has never witnessed the kind of clause in the course of his long career with the government.


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