rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Beware mainstream media's sudden narrative switch on NAFTA talks

Steve Verheul, Canada's chief NAFTA negotiator. Image: Polish Institute of International Affairs/Flickr

Mainstream media reports are suggesting we should feel cautiously optimistic about the sixth round of NAFTA talks that concluded in Montreal today.

The Globe and Mail reports, "Canadian negotiators spent all last week presenting new ideas." The Canadian Press notes, "Countries [are] seeking a pathway to solutions for the difficult problems" and that there is now "a glimmer of hope that the continental trade pact may yet be saved." And the Toronto Star has reported, "Canada has made a bold offer to accept a controversial U.S. demand at the NAFTA talks about how to resolve commercial trade disputes."

New ideas? Pathway to solutions? Glimmer of hope? Bold offer?

The CBC even reports that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer "sounded hopeful" about the state of NAFTA talks. And just now, Lighthizer characterized the Montreal round of talks as "a step forward" but that he still hopes for "major breakthroughs" (presumably including an end to supply management).

A deeply neoliberal U.S. trade representative speaking on behalf of a racist president likes how things are going. Is that a good thing? The mainstream media consensus implies we should feel a sense of relief. That CBC report even threw in that Lighthizer is "a self-admitted curmudgeon", which makes him sound more avuncular than dangerous.

There has been no critical commentary that Trudeau's "bold" proposal would keep Canada under a corporate-friendly Chapter 11 investor-state dispute settlement regime that allows transnational corporations to sue for lost future profits most commonly against environmental protection legislation.

There has been no reference to the idea that Trudeau's weakening of a proposed 'sunset clause' takes away a tool for the general public to be able to argue at regular intervals that NAFTA isn't in the best interests of working people and the environment and should end in a managed and planned way.

And there seems to be little mainstream media reporting that the energy proportionality provision (that could now be expanded to include Mexico) worsens climate change, that keeping water listed as a tradable good is not the best idea as water becomes increasingly viewed as a commodity by transnational corporations rather than as a human right, and that there is little indication proposed (and secret) Indigenous and gender rights chapters would be strong and enforceable.

So where do social movements go next with this? If NAFTA talks are in less danger of imminent collapse, can we set the bar a little higher for what we expect from governments? Is it credible to think that deeply neoliberal governments are going to negotiate a trade deal in the best interests of people and the planet?

More specifically, on what basis do we hope Trudeau will sign a NAFTA 2.0 we can accept after he ignored public opinion and negotiated a "progressive" Trans-Pacific Partnership that will be signed on March 8 (perhaps before the text is even made public)?

These are questions we may need to grapple with as the NAFTA talks approach the critical and concluding rounds in Mexico (February 26), the United States (late-March or early-April) and Canada (May).

It's still unclear if the negotiations may be paused (for the July 1 election in Mexico and the November 6 midterm elections in the United States) or if Trump may still choose to try to rip up the deal, but we are also no longer in mid-August 2017 and the early days of the first round of the talks either.

As the real negotiations on NAFTA begin, as counter-proposals and concessions emerge, and as concluding rounds draw closer, social movements face the task of deepening our analysis. demanding more and strengthening our mobilizing strategies to be able to engage effectively in this political moment.

This article originally appeared on The Council of Canadians blog

Image: Polish Institute of International Affairs/Flickr

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

    Thank you for reading this story...

    More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

    If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

    We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

    Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.

    Comments

    We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

    Do

    • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
    • Add context and background.
    • Report typos and logical fallacies.
    • Be respectful.
    • Respect copyright - link to articles.
    • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

    Don't

    • Use oppressive/offensive language.
    • Libel or defame.
    • Bully or troll.
    • Post spam.
    • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.