Dave Richards for May 2nd…………
--I’ll start this week with a tip of the hat to Roger Laliberte. This Thursday at the Twin River Event Center Roger will be among the radio greats to be inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame. It’s about time Roger is recognized for his complete dedication to Francophiles and Francophones throughout the Blackstone Valley.
I met Roger Laliberte when I was a young man starting out in broadcasting. We became good friends in short order. And even though we no longer work together, I couldn’t be more delighted to see him honored in this way.
Toutes nos fe’licitations, Roger!
--We’ve all heard for years about treaties between governments. Sometimes they are treaties ending the hostilities of war, sometimes pledging mutual defense of each other, and sometimes it’s a treaty outlining an agreement regarding trade. In the 1990s, two treaties came into existence. In Europe, the European Union (E.U.), and on this continent the North American Free Trade Agreement or (N.A.F.T.A).
Any agreement has an “upside” and a “downside”. Those who push to establish them promote the advantages of the “upside” only. This is natural. After they are established, the disadvantages of the “downside”, often become apparent. They say treaties are in this way not unlike a marriage. And, indeed, the similarities of treaties to marriage are even more striking when you examine the case of Brexit.
“Brexit” is the term used for the exit of Britain from the European Union, which they have elected to do. The remaining 27 countries of the E.U. are describing it as a ‘divorce’ in their various native tongues. The similarity goes even further. The financial settlement they are demanding of Britain to allow her to leave is being called “alimony”.
Naturally, it is in everyone else’s interest to make it difficult for a disenchanted member to simply leave the group. In the case of Brexit, Britain has offered many of millions to the E.U.. When they finished laughing, the remaining E.U. members suggested a figure in the tens of billions of Euros would be more like it. Now that’s what I call making it ‘difficult’!
NAFTA is an agreement among and between the three countries on the North American Continent. The United States, Mexico, and Canada have all agreed to remove tariffs, quotas, and other trade barriers between each other. During negotiations, proponents said it would lead to trade and prosperity for all three and give them a more commanding standing in trade matters between their members and other non-NAFTA countries. I remember at the time it was being debated there was much fear that failing to band together would put the countries on this continent at a distinct and dangerous disadvantage with the countries of the European Union.
When emotional arguments such as fear are used to make trade agreements look good, it is a clear sign that someone is getting desperate to pass it. This is not the way to make mutually beneficial treaties. Indeed, shortly after NAFTA was in full effect, many thousands of U.S. jobs were sent south of the border and the Mexican economy benefited greatly. The U.S. economy improved slightly because after the initial investment the companies which sent their manufacturing operations to Mexico profited, again at the expense of U.S. workers. Canada has seen insignificant benefit from the agreement.
This past weekend, President Trump came right out and said he wanted the U.S. to leave NAFTA. The president makes these kinds of statements, we have seen, with some regularity and also with apparent disregard for diplomatic protocols or for caring about what anyone else may think of it. Since I was personally not a supporter of NAFTA when it started, you might expect me to be happy to hear the president talk this way, but you would be wrong.
Yes, I’d love to see NAFTA not exist, but remember the costs being demanded of Britain in its exit from the E.U.. Is it possible leaving NAFTA could cost us more than leaving it is worth? Canada probably wouldn’t care if the whole thing went away. There were few tariffs between the U.S. and Canada before NAFTA. Mexico and Canada were never big trade partners, either. So there would likely not be much difference to the Canadians if they or we weren’t a part of NAFTA. But Mexico would be another matter, and this is where I think our trouble would originate.
Mexico benefited most from the NAFTA agreements. Mexico would certainly be the one most hurt if the deal broke up. Mexico, despite its present employment and relative prosperity has a huge problem with organized criminal gangs. It wouldn’t take much imagination to expect that if the Mexican economy were severely damaged, the only ones to benefit will be the criminal gangs. At the very least a poor economy would impair the ability of the Mexican government to fight organized crime.
So NAFTA has one member who doesn’t care, one member who wants out, and one member who’ll be hurt. Not a good position for any agreement to be in.
Examining all these facts, plus the knowledge that a desperate Mexico could nationalize all those factories we built down there, and can drive the criminal gangs northward over the border into the United States if it wanted to, we are left with a distinct feeling of apprehension that the cost of the U.S. leaving NAFTA may be far higher than we wish to pay. It leaves me clinging to the hope that our president will “go slow” in this direction. Unfortunately for my hopes, “going slow” is not our new president’s long suit. I do hope he learns, though. Rather quickly.
Thanks for reading!