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Free Trade

As a former negotiator on trade for Canada at GATT, I am keenly aware that it is the “fine print” that is important if we are to judge the advantages or disadvantages of the Free Trade deal. Especially is this true of non-tariff barriers.

From what I have read, the terms of the agreement seem to be a retrograde step when perceived in terms of the aims of GATT: to guarantee equality of trading opportunity among all trading nations on a global rather than a regional basis; to abolish import quotas and countervail duties, exchange controls and preferences; to provide machinery for general tariff reductions and removal of non-tariff trade restrictions; to curb the restrictive practices of monopolies and cartels and other measures hampering the free flow of trade between nations.

The agreement reached between the USA and Canada is continentalist and addressed primarily to American trading interests. The machinery for settling disputes is to be based on American Trade Laws, not GATT rules, in which aggregate concessions gained in bilateral negotiations are supposed to be generalized to the same products from all participants in GATT, under the Most-Favoured-Nations rule.

It is not the abolition of tariffs that is the challenge of the Canada-USA Free Trade accord. It is the actual new political coherence that others, as well as Canadians, see growing, with the USA as the unquestioned leader of a new economic bloc, working out its “manifest destiny” in its own interests. Gatt, on the other hand, offers, together with other international institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the UN, a global approach more compatible with world interdependence. This results from the network of world communications and the increasing fluidity of world commerce and finance.

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