Chrystia Freeland Talks Trade
at CORIM Luncheon
New Minister of Foreign Affairs addresses trade deal challenges
By Byron Toben
Five days before being appointed Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, then Minister of International Trade, spoke at a business luncheon sponsored by CORIM (Conseil de Relations International de Montreal). This impressive lady must now deal with threats by Donald Trump, to be sworn in as U.S. President 5 days from now, to cancel or renegotiate NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Ms. Freeland is MP for University-Rosedale (formerly representing Toronto Centre, having succeeded Bob Rae in that riding). Born in Alberta and armed with a B.A. in Russian history from Harvard, she had a journalistic career with stints with The Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, The Economist and Thomson Reuters. This led to living in London, Moscow, New York and Toronto. Along the way she has produced two prize-winning books, Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism and Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, as well as three children with her British-born husband (also a writer). She speaks English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Italian.
She is one of thirteen Canadians, (including Irwin Cotler) banned from Russia, in retaliation for Canada’s criticism of Russian actions in the Ukraine.
In her excellent speech, Ms. Freeland highlighted how Canada was dependent on exports more than many other nations but also pointed out that Canada was the largest export market for 35 U.S. states.
Although she did not mention it, ownership of large companies in Canada by foreigners, mostly U.S., is huge, bordering at least 50%. Thus trade restrictions on Canada would also hurt the profitability of their parent companies in the U.S.
… Ms. Freeland highlighted how Canada was dependent on exports more than many other nations but also pointed out that Canada was the largest export market for 35 U.S. states.
In criticizing anti “free trade” trends, she and many proponents fail to mention that many critics are not against international trade, but just against details of the Nafta model agreement, in particular Chapter 11, which allows foreign companies to sue Federal and provincial governments for theoretical lost profits under environmental laws, many of long standing, as determined by panels of big business lawyers.
This dispute settlement mechanism has resulted in Canada being sued 35 times vs. 20 brought against the USA, which has never been found guilty. Canada has lost at least six major cases despite spending $65 million dollars in legal fees defending them. As of one year ago, there were still 8 cases brought by US companies totalling $8 billion in claimed damages, according to a study from the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives.
Perhaps this is one reason that Quebec’s Minister of International Relations, Christine St-Pierre attended the event, noting that if the U.S. were to re-open NAFTA, Quebec wants to be at the table “from day one”.
Images: Sylvie-Ann Paré
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club