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Harper hints at reopening NAFTA

The Canadian Press reports that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is interested in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

At a B.C. Chamber of Commerce gathering, Harper commented, “If we can deepen it in areas like labour mobility, access of professional services and government procurement, these are big areas where – if we could open up NAFTA and expand its application – it would be very good for Canadian and American business.”

The news report notes, “Harper said the more modern agreements, in particular the South Korean deal and another signed with the European Union last year, are more comprehensive. The agreements cover investment, government procurement, intellectual property, labour mobility and a host of other issues beyond tariffs, he said.”

Earlier this week, the Council of Canadians, the Sierra Club, Sierra Club Canada, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade, and the Institute for Policy Studies released a report titled, “NAFTA: 20 Years of Costs to Communities and the Environment.”

While Harper commented yesterday that NAFTA is a “balanced agreement,” this report says it:

  • weakened domestic environmental safeguards by providing corporations with new legal avenues to challenge environmental policy making;

  • encouraged a boom in environmentally destructive mining activities in Mexico;

  • undermined Canada’s ability to regulate its tar sands industry and locked the country into shipping large quantities of fossil fuels to the United States;

  • catalyzed economic growth in North American industries and manufacturing sectors while simultaneously failing to safeguard against the increase in air and water pollution associated with this growth;

  • facilitated the expansion of large-scale, export-oriented farming that relies heavily on fossil fuels, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms.

More on the Council of Canadians’ opposition to NAFTA can be found here.