Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CETA a mixed bag

While free trade has been a clarion call of libertarians for centuries it's always important to understand that not all which is called free trade is actually free trade.  The libertarian position is clear : unilateral free trade NOW, with all nations.  What we've seen with NAFTA and now CETA is not really free trade but rather managed trade.  Still there are some benefits to treaty and it's incumbent upon us to consider it in it's entirety.

The best thing about this agreement is the widespread reduction in tariffs and easing of quotas with regards to goods coming to and going from our borders.  Lower tariffs mean lower prices for consumers and increased competition for our own domestic industry.  While domestic dairy farmer are concerned about European cheese being made with highly subsidized European milk being sold in Canadian grocery stores if European governments really want to subsidize Canadian dinner tables should we object to their generosity?

Still there are downsides.  The treaty comes with a strengthening of intellectual property (I.P.) rights in Canada.  These grants of monopoly privilege are not so much property rights as a violation thereof which limit competition and innovation.  Imposing patent term restoration will increase the duration which patents are held and granting the right of appeal to patent holders will weaken the notice of compliance granted to generic competition.  Prior to this treaty Canadian courts have held that a notice renders any appeal by the patent holder moot.  This treaty will also extend I.P. rights in plants and seeds enabling corporations to ask courts to seize farm assets and freeze farmer's bank accounts for alleged infringements even before a determination is made before a court.

The investor-state dispute settlement allows companies to sue and receive compensation from our government if regulations or government policies interfere with their profits.  As if the burden to the Canadian taxpayer weren't already high enough!

Over all the treaty is a mixed bag.  Far better would be to simply adopt the libertarian solution of unilateral free trade.  Eliminate quotas and tariffs on all goods coming to our shores and ignore whatever actions are taken by foreign governments to restrict trade; let the world make their own mistakes and focus on what we can control.

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