Almost 400 Torontonians turned out in February to learn about the Canada/U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Defence White Paper. The audience endorsed this resolution: "The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will encourage greater militarization of the Canadian economy and further subordinate Canadian domestic and foreign policy to U.S. military objectives. The following peace organizations oppose the Trade Agreement and call on the Mulroney government to hold an election on the issue before proceeding any further."
THE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT PURPORTS to reduce barriers to multilateral international trade. In fact, it would take us into a protective economy. Similarly, the White Paper masquerades as multilateral and international. In reality it places Canada unreservedly at the service of NORAD, and not of NATO. It too is bilateral instead of multilateral. Few Canadians noticed the change in NORAD's name from North American Air Defence to North American Aerospace Defence. The commander of NORAD also commands the U.S. space command.
President Reagan has called the Free Trade Agreement "an economic constitution for North America." It repeatedly states that Canadian policy will be "harmonized." That means that it will be adjusted to, and identified with American policy.
The Free Trade Agreement will pin us to a faltering empire, and thus defeat any genuine internationalizing of freedom of trade under GATT. The White Paper pins us to a doctrine of security through nuclear superiority, and gives the U.S. unlimited access to Canadian resources, territory and airspace.
VIRTUALLY EVERY CANADIAN industrial option other than military spending would be curtailed by the Free Trade Agreement. To encourage economic activity in disadvantaged areas, we will have to subsidize defence, because other industries developed through direct subsidies will likely be unable to export to the United States. If we want to encourage high technology industry, we'll have to do it through defence spending.
Canadian industrial policy has already tilted toward the military. All significant regional and technological development programs of the Mulroney government involve military spending: aircraft maintenance contracts in Winnipeg and Montréal, the frigates, the nuclear submarines, participation in the U.S. space program, and back door participation in Star Wars.
Military spending is an inefficient way to create jobs. In a recent study by CUPE, defence spending ranked last in job creation in comparison to road construction, health, and education spending.
CURRENTLY, MILITARY TRADE WITH THE UNITED States is carried out under the Defence Production Sharing Arrangements (DPSA), which have three notable problems.
First, the survival of Canadian military industry depends on the U.S. market. Second, access to that market is not guaranteed by treaty, but by ad hoc arrangements that continue at the pleasure of each succeeding administration and Congress. Third, the arrangements call for trade between the two countries to be kept in rough balance; we must ultimately buy as much military equipment from the U.S. as we export.
While Canada's military depends on the U.S. market, access to that market has a political price. At times the American demand is so great that political considerations are minor. For example, the Americans would buy anything we were making during the Vietnam War and early in the Reagan arms boom. But booms turn to busts, and while it is a violation of the language to call a $300 billion military budget a "bust," military spending is contracting. To protect the market for American producers, Congress has introduced measures to restrict Canadian access.
The U.S. administration, on the other hand, knowing the political implications of an integrated defence industry leading to an integrated defence policy, has pressured Congress on behalf of Canada's access to that market. So what would happen if Canada were to undertake an uncooperative act, such as refusing to test the cruise missile? Ottawa fears that the next time protectionist trade measures came before Congress, the administration would simply let protectionism take its course.
Congress may invoke national security requirements for its U.S. defence industry. I'd like to see protectionism restricting Canadian access, but I don't think that the Canadian government would react that way. Instead of reducing their dependence on that market, they will redouble their efforts to assure access. The government is already moving to solidify Canadian involvement in a continental defence industrial base. A defence industrial preparedness tax task force of the Department of National Defence has a plan for defence industry integration between both countries. It says, "Such a plan should serve to instruct Canadian legislators and policy makers in the need to treat the military industries of each country in a manner that transcends national boundaries." Not only military industries will transcend national boundaries, but also defence policy, thus undermining Canada's responsibility for pursuing international peace.
IN WHOSE INTERESTS ARE WE DOING THIS? The Defence Production Sharing Arrangements gave us a dry run in a small sector of free trade. As a result, we have no independent Canadian military. Data gathered by radar near our national capital are fed directly into Colorado Springs. Canada was not master in its military house prior to this deal and prior to the White Paper. Things have only gone from bad to worse.
It is the utmost conflict of interest to tie the workers of this country to an activity that must stop if the planet is to survive.
Peace Magazine Apr-May 1988, page 18. Some rights reserved.
Search for other articles by Kathleen O'Hara here