Sunday, February 24, 2013

Free Trade - Part 2

Continuing with the theme of yesterday's post, I am taking the liberty of reproducing some letters that appear in today's Star on free trade. They nicely puncture the myth, propagated and perpetuated by the right, of its unalloyed benefits to Canada:

Brian Mulroney and the harsh reality of Canada-U.S. free trade: Hepburn, Feb. 21

For many years before and after Brian Mulroney's free trade agreement I worked as a mechanical engineer with consulting firms. During those years I was involved in the design of a number of food processing plants. At least four of the plants were “grassroots” operations and were setting up in Canada because of the sales advantages offered.

All of those plants were closed down shortly after the FTA came into being and all were employers of large numbers of people who lost their jobs. Many of the other plants that I was involved with, mostly expansions of existing operations, also shut down their Canadian operations after the FTA.

When the FTA came into being, not only did plants shut down but the market for design of plants tapered off considerably and many engineering consulting firms laid off a number of engineers and architects. Some even closed completely and I am sure the domino effect came into play in many industries that relied on Canadian building for business.

I should probably add that because of the interest for companies to build in Canada, a great deal of new technology and advances in older technology was developed here and thus with the FTA a great deal was lost to other countries, mostly to the U.S.

Dean Ross, Port Hope

I agree and empathize fully with Bob Hepburn 's comments on the real effect of free trade on ordinary people: people who have lost their jobs and the fact that almost all of these factory jobs are gone forever. It is a sad fact that real truths like this are covered up and never acknowledged by those responsible. This article is front page material in my opinion.

Another effect that I personally observe is the loss of basic manufacturing skills in our country. All but gone are the machine shops, factories and the businesses that served them. A simple example of my own was my recent inability to purchase a round threading die. It seems that these replacement dies are no longer sold by the likes of Home Depot, Lowes, Canadian Tire, Busy Bee, Princess Auto, etc. The only possible reason is no demand. As little as three years ago, they were available. (I note that some of the above do offer sets with many dies of different sizes, but they are all aimed at the hobbyist and not suited for manufacture.)

We have indeed sold our souls to the Asian manufacturers. It is beyond sad and we will experience the effects for years to come.

Don Dorward, Pickering

How refreshing , if unusual, to read a mainstream piece that actually talks turkey about the disastrous free trade deal. In Canada, we've been living in a kind of opium dream since the late ’80s, with the usual suspects — quick-buck artists and ideological hobbyists — insisting ever since that we've never had it so good.

Just as there was a conspiracy by business elites in '88 to foist free trade on the country, there's been a de facto conspiracy ever since to push the line that it's been some kind of boon for us all, even despite the overwhelming contrary evidence. Remember, more than 60 per cent of us sensibly rejected the deal when it was an election issue, even if our disgraceful electoral system gave Brian Mulroney a “mandate” to saddle us with it.

Brian Mulroney and his patrons obviously think we're stupid, and they might well have a case, based on almost 30 years of our allowing their nonsensical economic analyses to float.

But watch and enjoy nevertheless the inevitable unravelling in our lifetime of the doublespeak concept of “free” trade, as unaffordable energy costs and other factors begin to make the shipping of goods thousands of miles to market look merely old-fashioned and quaint.

George Higton, Toronto

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