Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama and NAFTA?

This story is coming back.

It seems that there is an effort in the US Congress to restrict all "stimulus" spending on iron, steel and perhaps other goods to "made in the USA" sources. That's illegal under NAFTA, perhaps under WTO, and would be a very bad way in any event to begin a new era in Canada/USA relations. NAFTA is still in full force, last I heard.

Industry Minister Tony Clement is already speaking out. Prime Minister Harper has expressed "grave concern." The issue clearly could and should arise during President Obama's visit to Canada on February 19, 2009 - if it has not been fully defused by then.

It will be really interesting to see what President Obama does about this, given his past pronouncements about NAFTA and the conventional wisdom about the Democratic Party's relative predilection for protectionism. Let's see whether there will be "change" afoot on this front.

If such a blatantly protectionist move as this is enacted into law, it will be even more interesting to see if the current Canadian government is once again in an unseemly hurry to enact the American wish list for a DMCA North "Made Worse in Canada" version of American copyright law.

There are things that need to be done to improve Canadian copyright law. But we don't need to import the worst features of American law, particularly if the Americans are going to become even greater scofflaws of international law. And we don't need to shovel money at the Americans for copyright rights that they don't provide to Canadians.

This is an old story that goes back well into the 19th century. It probably won't end soon. It is now beginning to be documented and analyzed by by scholars such as Sara Bannerman.

Let's hope that Canada learns not to get pushed around on copyright policy by the USA, as it once was by the UK. It's time for Canada to finally stand on its own feet on copyright and other fronts, and move on from being part of declining empires.


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