The arguments of CETA oppositionWritten by ENBlogger
Yesterday, on March 25, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, accompanied by the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), met with Quebecers to discuss all sorts of benefits CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) will bring to the province.
Meanwhile, the opposition to the free trade agreement is brewing. Since most experts agree that CETA will provide great economic benefits to both Canada and the European Union, why are some organizations opposed to the negotiations?
The fear against the free trade agreement stems from an economic philosophy called protectionism. Just as the name suggests, organizations and industries want to protect their market share by restricting competition from other parts of the world. For example, one of the arguments often mentioned by those opposed to CETA is the postulate that upon rectification of the document EU companies will be able to engage in municipal procurement processes. Or, to put it more simply, the EU companies will be able to engage in unrestricted competition with Canadian companies.
One of the major forces behind the fight against CETA is the Council of Canadians. The organization is known for various campaigns they organize, ranging from the opposition to the tar sands projects to the opposition to private health clinics. Recently, the Council started to devote a lot of its attention to CETA.
Let’s just take one of the arguments put on the table by the Council of Canadians. In their call-to-action against CETA the organization states that: „the Harper government has thrown Canadian municipalities under the bus, forever banning ‘buy local’ and other sustainable purchasing policies that help create jobs, protect the environment and support local farmers and local businesses.”
Interesting, but let’s disect this argument. Buy local has been a catch-phrase that people tend to get passionate about. I, personally, prefer to buy local produce, for instance. I enjoy the taste better, and the fact that it is fresher. And I am happy I can make that choice. Therefore, in my mind buy local refers to the agricultural sector; and, frankly, this sector is not going to be endangered by European produce as it tends to be even more expensive locally in Europe.
So what the Council of Canadians is referring to by saying buy local are all other industries. Let me now, then, bring back the second major concept (first being supply and demand) of Economics 101: Competitive Advantage. The reason why we are able to enjoy high-quality cheap products is the result of individuals, companies, and regions specializing in the production of a specific good. If you’re the best at making something, and you make it cheap enough, it would be unwise of me to purchase a lesser quality product, simply because of the buy local doctrine.
Let’s relate this to sustainability now. The argument that if we buy local it would be more sustainable is simply false. Firstly, no protectionist policy is sustainable economically. The reason is that markets tend to appear and disappear over time, and if one is shielding himself from the outside world, sooner or later the local market will disappear. Secondly, buying locally does not mean the product is better for the environment. In case of Canada-EU situation it’s quite the opposite. The Europeans are arguably the most advanced manufacturers of green technologies, which cannot be said about Canada. Even if you take into account the energy required to ship a product across the ocean, the net benefits for the environment would almost always outweight the costs, when talking about equipment products (of course the kind of equipment we would be incentivized to import, i.e. better equipment).
Let’s take the last claim of the Council of Canadians into consideration: farmers would be hurt if CETA is rectified. Maybe, but certainly not the Canadian farmers. There are 30 million people in Canada, and 500 million in the European Union – a net gain of 470 million additional people the Canadian farmer will get access too. If I were a farmer, I would be petitioning the government to hurry-up with this document cause the season is fast arriving (well, looking at the weather outside, maybe not that fast).
The above is my personal opinion, and I welcome any critique of my reasoning, and further discussion. And, let me just add this disclaimer: the views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views of Europe Now Enterprises and individuals associated with the Lifestyle Expo.
Until next time,
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