Leaving Canada out of NAFTA Racializes Trade

With the absence of any mention of Canada from all NAFTA discourse, the idea of scrapping, or “renegotiating” NAFTA has become convincingly less about “trade” and more about the United States having problems with people with brown skin.

This Politico story has some good points; that trade economics always wins, especially in the Neoliberal abyss that distorts the gravity of social institutions. This story however, is noteworthy for its absence of any mention of Canada in NAFTA, and it is not alone.

Canada and the United States are very much economically dependent upon each other. 32 states have Canada as their main export country. There are dozens of American companies in Canada, such as GM, Ford, Chrysler, General Dynamics, as well as several technology companies. Under special NAFTA rules for highly skilled workers, thousands of Americans work in Canada, and thousands of Canadians work in America. The U.S.-Canadian border isn’t just the largest land crossing in the world; it’s also the busiest in commerce. About $45 Billion in Customs declarable goods move across the U.S.- Canadian border every MONTH.


Canadian labour is cheap too! At current Bank of Canada rates, paying a Canadian $12 per hour CAD is the equivalent of paying $8.64 USD. Canadian labour may not be as cheap as Mexico for U.S. companies, but it’s awfully darn cheap.

Yet, noticeably absent from the discourse are any complaints about Canadians taking American jobs; or American companies moving to Canada. There is no discussion on forcing a 20% tariff on Canadian goods. Under NAFTA, what ever the U.S. does to Mexico, it must also do to Canada – except if it doesn’t under the new U.S. Authoritarian regime.

Any “renegotiating” would have to include Canada. Considering that the U.S. lost a WTO appeal to Canada over meat labelling in 2015, creating unfair trade under NAFTA, and the United States has a $15 Billion trade deficit with Canada (2015 estimate), Canada is likely not going to give up its biggest bargaining chip on trade; especially when a “yuge” part of their economy depends on it.

Separating Canada from the NAFTA discourse turns NAFTA into a U.S.-Mexican trade relationship, which it is not. Putting a U.S.-Mexican trade conflict under the umbrella of NAFTA hides the discourse of white America versus brown people – a racialized other. If it were really about “trade,” we’d be hearing about all of those treasonous American companies moving to Canada and all of those Canadians taking American jobs. NAFTA under the “new normal” is more convincingly less about “trade” and more about race. Considering the topics of the current NAFTA discourse, leaving Canada out almost racializes trade by default.

This entry was posted in Economics, Labor, Political Economy, Race, Sociology. Bookmark the permalink.

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