Canada is a World-Class Trade Bully

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“Why do they hate us so much?” This question, asked by millions of Americans in the aftermath of the September 11 assault on New York and Washington, is symbolic of what differentiates Canada from the United States.

Our sympathy for ordinary Americans post-September 11 is accompanied with an unspoken relief that at least “they” don’t hate us. The United States is the evil empire. We’re Canada - peace-loving, caring, cognizant of the needs of other nations.

But this sanguine attitude is becoming more like whistling past the graveyard. With the third world community increasingly seeing Canada as a country that has abandoned its commitment to internationalism and fairness.

The fact that the Canadian government has jumped on the“coalition” train delivering a catastrophe to ordinary Afghanis is just part of the picture. Canada is now seen as little more than a crass lobbyist for the world’s, and the country’s own, largest corporations.

When Canadian non-governmental organizations meet counterparts in international forums they brace themselves for the inevitable question: Why has Canada abandoned its historic role to become one of the most aggressive pushers of free market policies?

Ever since Canada signed the original free trade deal with the United States, it has been moving in the direction of the corporate state. Ottawa’s policy of trade über alles means the corporate sector is no longer just one of many interests competing for government policy attention. It has become completely integrated into the fabric of government.

There are still glimpses of resistance but they are few and far between.

Canada initially fought off the World Trade Organization’s patent protection provisions trying to defend its generic drug legislation. It argued eloquently the agreement was never intended to “unduly prejudice the vital public interest” in pursuing health objectives. It lost the case.

Now Canada is one of just five countries at the WTO ministerial meetings in Qatar vowing to block an African declaration that would ensure poor countries can take “measures to protect public health” such as using cheaper generic drugs to deal with the AIDS epidemic.

The patent protection treaty Canada is now defending is the antithesis of the free trade the WTO says its stands for. It is globally enforced protectionism for the world’s most powerful drug companies. Millions will die because of its provisions.

Michelle Swenarchuk of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, attended the final meetings aimed at establishing an international bio-safety protocol, held in Montreal in January 2000.

She came away disgusted.

Canada was a member of the Miami Group, along with the United States, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, opposing a 150-nation consensus on the need to deal with the implications for bio-diversity, food security and health posed by genetically engineered seeds. “Canada’s goal was to prevent international regulation of food and feed,” she said. “We parroted the United States line and even spoke for the U.S. on some topics.”

The Canadian negotiators, just as the end was in sight, almost derailed the protocol by holding out into the middle of the night. As one Asian delegate said to me, “Canada used to be such a positive influence. What has happened?”

Following Canada’s failed WTO challenge of France’s asbestos ban, Chile announced its own ban. For their initiative to protect their citizens from this deadly carcinogen, Chile’s elected officials were vilified by Canadian bureaucrats.

Canada’s ambassador to Chile, Paul Durand, accused Chilean Health Minister Michelle Bachelet of being “in the thrall of American environmental” lobbyists. Department of Foreign Affairs trade official Pierre Desmarais declared the Chilean decree banning asbestos “undemocratic.”

Canada’s new status as global bully extends to the WTO. It and the other members of the so-called Quad countries — Canada, the United States, the European Union, Japan — learned their lesson from Seattle.

They have dropped any pretense of democracy and fairness. Brute intimidation is the name of the game. The Quad met in Mexico in August and in Singapore last month and cobbled together the draft declaration presented to the 142 WTO members this past weekend.

On October 31, Mike Moore, the WTO Director-General, and Stuart Harbinson, the WTO General Council chair simply declared — with no legal authority whatsoever — they would not revise their draft to indicate the opposing views of other delegations.

Abandoning past practice of including detailed objections of delegations in a covering letter, they declared the documents would go before the Doha meeting on November 9 without the required ten-day notice. The draft read as if there was consensus, yet Third World countries are even more opposed to a new round than they were in Seattle.

Canada is an eager participant in this whole contemptible process. What is stunning about this turn of events is that Canada’s new role as the world-bully, toady of the United States, running roughshod over the weakest nations in the world, has been determined without a shred of public debate. If Third World peoples don’t hate Canada yet, it’s only a matter of time.

By the time most Canadians find out, it will be too late.

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