I know I had some harsh things to say about Canada recently; I went so far as to call it a d-bag and compare it to a belligerent child. I have had something of a change of heart, and I owe it to The Economist‘s offbeat use of the word “sexy” to describe Canada.
The event that inspired the elevation of Canada to sex symbol status was the announcement of a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. Hot damn! I was beginning to think that the agreement to which Harper has been alluding for some time was nothing more than a mythical yet wondrous figment of Harper’s imagination. The unicorn of trade agreements.
But it turns out that I was wrong, and Harper was just playing it close to the chest for a change. Heh. Of course, not everyone will be happy about this deal: there are those who believe that protectionism, not liberalisation, is the path to a thriving local economy that actually benefits locals. There is a lot of worry in particular about Ontario’s troubled manufacturing sector, especially its automotive industry. An influx of cheap European cars is probably bad news, but opinion is still surprisingly divided over the harm vs good that will come of it because, on the other hand, Canada can now sell more of its cars to Europeans.
In any case, this is exactly the sort of cyclical argument on free trade in which I do not wish to engage. Economic and political integration between nations is usually a good thing, and free trade foments both. People hold up the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent eurozone crisis as examples of inevitable consequences of financial globalization, but I would argue that these events were more a result of lax regulation in the US and debt-to-GDP panic in the eurozone. That is, their actual cause was not financial integration between nations, but isolated cases of stupidity, the effects of which were exacerbated by linkage. So, to me at least, the argument against financial linkage should more rightly be one against stupidity.
One could argue that if linkage exacerbates shocks, then that is reason enough for nations to withdraw, but it is not that simple. There are enormous political and economic benefits to integration, and isolation is looking nearly impossible these days. As technology changes the global landscape ever more radically, it is becoming increasingly difficult for nations to shield themselves from the reverberations of economic shocks in far-off lands, even when their laws in theory should. And when we look upon one of the world’s most isolated nations, North Korea, it becomes apparent that isolationism is not a good look for a modern economy. (Though there are obviously other factors at work in North Korea’s case.)
Unfortunately, the complete opening of trade borders that some predicted would result from globalization has taken a stumble following the financial crisis of 2007. Far-reaching, multilateral trade agreements are increasingly being replaced by bilateral or regional pacts, and many countries’ knee-jerk response to the recession has been to tighten capital flow rules and impose prohibitive tariffs. Which is so unsexy.
The sexy thing for governments to do now would be to collaborate more fully in the task of building an international governing body that we can all agree on. Since the Harper government insists on undermining the UN at every turn, perhaps it could be a forerunner in establishing a viable alternative–in that case Canada would instantly be promoted to “dead sexy” status. An international governing body would empower governments to tell the US to regulate its shit, and the eurozone to learn basic economics instead of listening to Rand Paul. One would hope.
Canada is still a douchebag for spying on Brazil–that needs to happen less if we are hoping for increased integration–but I suppose Baird’s comments on the fraudulent Maldives elections were warranted. The election was really really fraudulent, and it appears that no other country really minded–or were they just too busy worrying about their US bonds? I begrudgingly award kudos to Baird for speaking out. Though I still think some tact in other instances would do wonders.
Yesterday someone sent me an online petition to “remove Stephen Harper as PM of Canada.” That’s when I realized I should take it down a notch. I’m not his biggest fan, but he’s not at Putin or Maduro level. Sometimes he even does things that don’t completely enrage me. And he may turn out to be our sexiest PM yet–especially if he gets a real unicorn for Canada just like he got us those pandas.