Folks, as you know, we are doing our study. Our committee is a very busy committee. We finished a European trade agreement. We've also done a major study on TPP, which of course Mexico was involved with, and right now our study is very focused on our future trade with Mexico and the United States. Of course, this is on the minds of many right now. Not only our three countries but the rest of the world is watching us.
Our committee has already done some extensive travel in western United States. Many Canadian stakeholders, who do a lot of business with United States and Mexico, have come in front of us.
Today we're very appreciative that we have some people from Mexico to speak to us. Sometimes video conferencing can be inconsistent, so I think we're going to start right off the bat with our folks from Mexico so we can get their comments in.
Gentlemen, we usually have around five minutes—it would be appreciated—and then we will go to dialogue with the MPs.
Without further ado, we're going to start off and we're going to go right to Mexico. From Mexico we have Mr. Ortega from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
Welcome, sir. You have the floor. Go ahead.
That's very kind, sir. We are very honoured to be able to talk to you and to state the position of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico. Our membership comprises around 300 Canadian companies that have ventured to invest in this country, that trade actively, and that are very much concerned and interested in ensuring that NAFTA is defended.
As stated in an open letter to President Peña on January 17 of this year, sir, the chamber considers NAFTA to be the main international trading asset of the three countries, and certainly of Canada and Mexico, in our view. I have here this open letter that was published in one of the main national newspapers. We also said that, after so many years of being in full force, the agreement certainly is fit to be modernized, and we consider TPP a very good reference for that exercise. It's an exercise that has already been done, which Canada and Mexico were a part of.
We also said that modernization should always be directed toward increasing the competitiveness of the North American region, which is something that NAFTA achieved in the many years of being in force, so to ensure that we have an increasing value within all the trade chains and all the investment chains.
The last we thing we said is that Canada—and this is the message for Mexico—is a reliable partner. Our position is that this should be a trilateral negotiation since NAFTA is a trilateral deal. As happened during the negotiations many years ago—anecdotally, I was a negotiator in those days—Canada and Mexico, if they joined forces, could do a good job in ensuring that it gets modernized.
Finally, in reading the letter that was sent by the USTR representative Mr. Lighthizer to the Senate, we are happy to read that Mr. Lighthizer is explicitly mentioning the concept of modernizing NAFTA. We wholly subscribe to that objective. This modernization, I think, is on our agenda. In particular, it is on the agenda of the Mexican government. We very much support that approach. Again, we consider that the TPP will be the main reference.
Finally, whatever happened with that negotiation, this is also a position we have stated publicly and in other forums to our representatives in Canada and Mexico. We consider that Mexico and Canada should reinforce their bilateral relationship within NAFTA, under the aegis of NAFTA, or elsewhere. There are many avenues to achieve that.
Whatever happens to NAFTA and that negotiation, certainly they should push for a successful TPP negotiation if the 11 countries left are able to launch it without one of the members that quit. The position of the chamber is that such an option should be explored, and I think it would be worth it.
That is what I have to say, sir.
I want to thank you, and to thank the committee.
It's a pleasure and an honour to be a part of these hearings, and it's certainly extremely timely. I know you didn't plan it like that, but of course today is the official notification on behalf of the USTR vis-à-vis Congress and the negotiations that are happening.
If you'll allow me, I'm going to go back a bit. I don't think it's highlighted enough that the only reason we're living through this period of bewildered uncertainty is that our collective generation in North America was tested in the run-up to the American elections and we were found lacking.
In the case of Mexico it is perhaps more patently obvious. The current President of the United States based his campaign on ignorance and xenophobia vis-à-vis Mexico and Mexicans. As you know, he led the Republican field only after calling Mexicans rapists and he consolidated his base around the rallying cry, “build the wall”. Then he became a serious candidate in the eyes of many when the Canadian, American, and Mexican private sectors, as well as the Democratic candidate herself, responded with a deafening silence to his attacks on NAFTA. Suddenly he was perceived as being right on a very important policy issue and the die was cast. Now we are suffering the consequences of our negligence, to be perfectly frank.
Whenever I speak to a Canadian audience—and I think this is very important—there are a few things that need to be highlighted because our relationship with the United States is not as well known in Canada as it might be.
The first is that Mexico and the United States are the two most integrated, large countries in the world. We have the most legally crossed border in the world, with 350 million border crossings through 330 entry points. Mexico has the equivalent of the population of Canada in the United States, with 36.9 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Of those, 80% are either U.S. citizens or legal residents; that is, the Mexican experience is not an undocumented experience.
At the same time, Mexico is by far the most important destination for the U.S. diaspora. At any given time there are between one million and three million Americans in Mexico, which is between four and 12 times more than in Canada.
Official Washington is very well aware of the staggering depth of our relationship, which is the reason that Mexico City is the only place, outside of Washington, D.C., where every U.S. government agency is represented. It's the reason the new U.S. embassy here in Mexico City is a billion-dollar project, or at least it was because as is so often the case with this administration, nobody really knows what's going on anymore.
At the same time, Mexico maintains the largest consular presence of any country anywhere in the United States.
I'll try to give a focus to this. Basically, when I had the opportunity to introduce the Governor of Texas here in Mexico City, he talked about our being neighbours, which led to my very politely correcting him. We're not really neighbours; we're roommates. The bottom line is that just as with respect to Canada, American prosperity and national security directly depend on a co-operative and stable Mexico.
What is the Mexican perspective on what's going on in North America in general? There is certainly an element of anger at the insults, as well as significant bemusement at the lies, but mainly we don't have a clue as to what's going to happen with American policy, with one day NAFTA being on the verge of cancellation, another day NAFTA being saved because the U.S. President apparently likes his Canadian and Mexican counterparts. I don't know how viable that is in the medium and long term as a reason to stay in NAFTA, the fact that he gets along with and President Peña Nieto.
Then we hear that the U.S. will seek separate arrangements with Mexico and Canada, which, if you actually know anything about our position, is a non-starter, at least with Mexico, and I think it is the same with Canada at this point. I know it didn't start like that, but that's at least our feeling. and we'd be very interested to find out your views on that.
But if the White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's whiteboard is to be believed, the U.S. will do its best to quarantine the rest of the world from his city on a hill, sunsetting American visa laws and all of that.
Canadians are being told by the president of Goldman Sachs to relax because the President of the United States apparently likes them, and I guess the corollary being that Mexicans should be sweating because he doesn't like us. I mean, we don't know how to interpret those things.
In his interview with The Economist, the President said that the problem with NAFTA is our VAT, our value-added tax or EVA—which at least is something the Mexican consumer can get behind—although I don't think he really knew very much what he was talking about. The truth is that nobody knows.
We're having to deal with the United States, which sounds more like a volatile developing country than the world's largest and most sophisticated market, sort of Venezuelaization of the United States, but at the same time nothing happens, right? Until today, of course. The peso drops. The peso has dropped significantly. We are about 20% below where we should be because of these tweets and these lies, and because of everything that's been said. Then, of course, American exporters are hurt, and everybody is worse off in a climate of insecurity and fear.
This brings me to Canada. Our perception of Canada is that after the unfortunate episode of Ambassador MacNaughton's comments in Washington that fed the whole throwing Mexico under a bus narrative, Canada has come to realize what was obvious to us from the beginning. That is something I've had a chance to share on CBC's Power & Politics, and I know it caused a bit of an uproar. It was the fact that it was just a matter of time until Canada was going to be put in the crosshairs. It's the reality.
It would be foolish to think that it is in anyone's interest to negotiate individually with this administration. I'm well aware of the fact that the Canadian business community is very interested in flying under the radar, and I'm sure you're being pressured to be accommodating, but with respect to this, I don't think it's a good idea. I think it's about acting on principle.
That's what I would share with you in this first round.
My remarks will cover the upcoming trade negotiations, the Canada-Mexico relationship, and the need for middle powers like Canada and Mexico to stand up in support of the rules-based, liberal international system.
With regard to the North American accord, we need a new North American accord. NAFTA worked to the benefit of all three parties—Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico—but it is time to bring the NAFTA negotiated before the digital age and the arrival of e-commerce into the 21st century.
The trans-Pacific partnership would have largely accomplished this, but the Trump administration has withdrawn from this Obama administration initiative, so we need to adjust to the current circumstances. A new agreement would include and set the standards in emerging areas like e-commerce and the growing digital trade. We can also make improvements to integrate into the agreement standards on labour and the environment.
We need to address labour mobility, including the mutual recognition of accreditation. Then we can make maximum use of the talent pool that North America enjoys, but that we need to harness, to make us the most competitive region in the world. This means provision for trade adjustment so that those who are displaced by trade decisions or by efficiency improvements in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence are guaranteed the opportunity to improve their skills or have training in another area. In doing so, we have the opportunity to create, just as NAFTA did in its time, the new model for trade agreements: a realistic but progressive trade agreement that gives a helping hand to those who are displaced or who lose out.
A trilateral trade negotiation leading to a new North American economic accord would respect the sovereignties of the three nations. It would be a very different model from that of the European Union with its centralized and heavy bureaucratic oversight. Rather, we would continue with the current approach of ad hoc working groups to ensure and evergreen the agreement to allow for continuous improvement in areas like transportation.
In the coming weeks, we'll hear a lot of noise and nonsense about Canada and Mexico out of Washington. We need to distinguish between what is real and what is theatre. To paraphrase the great Gretzky, we need to go “where the puck is going”, and keep our eyes on the net and on the goals that we want and can score.
With regard to Canada-Mexico, NAFTA transformed the Canada-Mexico relationship from one of cordial distance based on a shared neighbour into that of family. Today, there is an annual, increasing flow of two million Canadians to Mexico, especially during the winter months. Canadian investment, mining, manufacturing, and banking have increased manyfold, while trade has more than tripled—even faster than with our traditional partners in Europe and Japan. Today, Mexico is our third-largest trading partner, but it's not reciprocal. Mexican investment in Canada never took. There is one notable exception: Grupo Bimbo's acquisition of Canada Bread in 2014. It now operates 17 bakeries and employs over 4,000 across Canada.
The imposition of the visa in 2009 affected more than half of Mexican travel to Canada, effectively chilling tourism, study, and investment. The lifting of the visa this past December and its replacement with the electronic travel authorization has resulted in a significant increase in Mexican travel to Canada. We are already reaping rewards and more tourists, but we should be doing more in terms of tourism promotion. We expect more students, especially given President Trump's comments about building a wall on the Mexican border. We should encourage recruitment visits here by middle and high schools, university and vocational schools, and provincial education ministers.
Beyond students, we could do a lot more in joint research projects in manufacturing and agri-food. In the longer term, ease of entry into Canada would also generate more investment, but we need to target Mexican investment that matches Canada. Most promising are the automotive and automotive parts sector and the energy and energy services sector.
Goldman Sachs estimates that by 2050, Mexico will overtake China in terms of per capita GDP. There is already a middle class of 40 million in Mexico. Mexico is our springboard into the potential of the Americas. We already have preferred observer status in the Pacific Alliance that includes Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile. In the short-term, before the end of the year, should lead a “Team Canada” mission with premiers, business leaders, and university presidents to Mexico to deepen Canada-Mexico relations and to underline our solidarity with Mexico in negotiating a new North American accord.
The picture of solidarity, with President Peña Nieto in Mexico City, would be appreciated in Mexico. Its significance would also be recognized in the United States, and it would give encouragement to our many allies in the Congress, the states, the business community, and even within the Trump administration.
A vigorous partnership with Mexico is already working to our mutual benefit, but we still have to realize the full potential of the Canada-Mexico relationship.
In terms of worry about middle powers, we live in a world of disarray. The rules-based, liberal international system and supporting architecture that Canadians helped engineer in the period after the Second World War has kept the peace and created the conditions for extraordinary growth and prosperity. Today, it is under strain and in need of reform and rejuvenation, and the middle powers need to step up. China and Russia would like to see a return to spheres of influence and a concert of great powers. This would not serve Canadian or Mexican interests.
The United States, which guaranteed this system and built it on its military might, wants more burden-sharing by like-minded states. This we must do, because the hard truth is that the U.S. carries and sustains the system under which Canadians and Mexicans have thrived. We need to stand up with like-minded middle powers such as Mexico and reaffirm our support and commitment to the rules-based, liberal international system. A new, progressive approach to sustainable trade and labour mobility in partnership with Mexico and other democratic middle powers is the place to begin the necessary reform and rejuvenation.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It is a great honour to speak after Mr. Colin Robertson and Mr. Augustin Barrios, who I have known for a long time, as well as Mr. Armando Ortega, who I have not met before.
First of all, I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to present a few points of view relating to Canada West and to the prospect of long-term work with North America.
I would also like to introduce Canada West by bringing greetings from our CEO, your former colleague, who I think has worked with many of you here before, Martha Hall Findlay.
You'll notice that my presentation is much different than in the past. It is more formal. She gave me strict instructions to clean up my act when I came back to Parliament, so given that we have a new CEO, you'll see a change with Canada West.
I had the committee to myself this morning with foreign affairs. I'll cut my much more detailed testimony to something a bit more brief, in light of the news that we just received from Washington this afternoon.
With the informing of Congress by the administration of a written submission on goals by the administration for the negotiation of NAFTA, we have entered what could be called the TPA phase of negotiations. We are leaving the phase or the period of the sole formation of U.S. trade policy being done by tweet at 2 a.m by Donald Trump.
We are now in an era when Congress is exercising control over U.S. trade policy. This does not mean that Trump's influence on the administration will be completely negated, but it does mean that we now have balance. Article I, section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution of the United States, the commerce clause, states that Congress has responsibility for the regulation of trade between the United States and foreign states, among the states, and with the Indian nations.
It is clear that trade is a congressional area of responsibility. The negotiation of agreements is certainly the responsibility of the administration, but the rules on trade, the laws on trade, the rules and laws on tariffs, and anything the administration negotiates has to be approved by Congress. We are now entering an era when Congress will start exercising control. I would not refer to 20 years of U.S. history in trade negotiations but to a month and a half to two months ago.
On March 21, Secretary Ross and acting U.S. trade representative Vaughn went to the Senate finance committee to talk about their plans for trade and for renegotiating NAFTA. Secretary Ross, according to Politico and other sources in Washington, attempted to slip in a notification that they would like to begin renegotiating NAFTA.
The response from Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat, and the rest of the committee, was practically to laugh him out of the room. This is not proper notification.
You have to give a written submission of how the negotiating positions of the administration align with the priorities established by the TPA legislation. The administration then has to listen to input from Congress, and not just respond but incorporate changes from Congress, the Senate, and the Committee on Ways and Means, into what the administration is proposing. It then has to demonstrate how they'll be going forward. That was not done.
The next attempt by the administration was to suggest that Vaughn, the acting USTR, could do this. Again, it was set back, with half of the committee saying, “No, it has to be a USTR.” The recent evidence, the facts and evidence before us by means of Congress strengthening its role suggest that it has never ceded its authority to the administration for trade policy; it has delegated. We're seeing a Congress that in evidence is exercising more influence.
I think we really have to take heed of the role that Congress is playing and will likely continue to play if recent evidence, not of the past 20 years but of the past couple of months, and even the questions they put forward today to the new USTR are any indication.
There are strict calls in the TPA legislation for updating Congress and for Congress to have access to the negotiating documents from the United States and its counterparts in the negotiations. There is every indication that Congress is going to hold the administration to this.
We are arriving at a period of balance. Having to wake up at two o'clock in the morning and worry about what Trump tweeted is going to be a little less important in light of the role that I expect Congress to play.
What does this mean for us and for Canada? There are a couple of things here. One is finance, ways and means. These are the areas of focus for us in Washington. If you are going to Washington, I would humbly suggest that's whom you need to spend time with. Focus laser-like on the members of the committee. Get to know them, and be able to work with them on the negotiations. Work with our Mexican counterparts in doing the same thing, targeting members of the committee. I'm quite sure that Lloyd Doggett, from Texas, would be amenable to talking to the Mexicans, given the importance of trade with Mexico for his district.
There are not just strategies for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade—sorry, I still refer to them that way—but a role for Parliament to play in this, too.
Second, the other opportunity for us is getting to people to whom congressmen listen. When there is a crisis in Washington or when there are issues concerning NAFTA, U.S. congressmen may or may not answer a call from the Canadian ambassador, but they sure as hell are going to answer a call from the Speaker of the state house back home, the governor back home, or the president of the local chamber of commerce. With those ties, we have a unique ability to interact with and influence those people in ongoing relations at the subnational level.
Our premiers and Speakers of provincial legislatures in Canada are in Washington. We are a member of the U.S. Council of State Governments. We are a member of PNWER. We are a member of the Council of the Great Lakes Region. We are a member of the New England governors association. We need to pursue these, and it's something we haven't done in the past.
Part of the problem is.... It's an open secret that the Clerk of the Privy Council has told the premiers that the provinces need to do more in terms of reaching out to the states to exercise their influence. We are asking the premiers and the provinces to do more, but you've seen the Saskatchewan budget. You've seen the budget in Manitoba, in Alberta, even in B.C. We are asking the provinces to do more at a time when we need them to do more but they have less. We've been working with Western Economic Diversification, trying to get them to create a fund to co-finance subnational engagement activities with the provinces to double what we are doing in the states and take advantage of this unique window to exercise influence.
Finally, the other point I can make is that North America is not NAFTA. We often conflate NAFTA with North American integration. Even in testimony here and in foreign affairs people talk about the regulatory co-operation council and they confuse that with being part of NAFTA. We've had continued success on integration with the RCC, with our trusted travellers programs. At a time when we're talking about ripping up NAFTA, there is work under way to combine the Canada-U.S. regulatory co-operation council and the U.S.-Mexico high-level regulatory co-operation council. At a time when we are talking about building walls in North America, we are still working to link our two separate trusted travellers programs into one North American trusted travellers program.
No, these do not offset the potential of a redone NAFTA, or of NAFTA being ripped up, but it is important to note that there are other avenues to advance our economic interests in terms of integration in North America: strengthening the regulatory co-operation council or, as we did in a presentation to the U.S. parliamentary working group, looking at things like creating a North American infrastructure bank. It's the type of small-scale, focused initiative that would help the Americans solve a problem they have with border infrastructure and that could really benefit Canada and give us a leg up on dealing with the Americans.
I'll close with those notes. There are things we can do. Today is an important day, and we need to be prepared for an era of more balance. We can finally sleep through the night and not worry as much about that 2 a.m. tweet coming from Donald Trump.
It's in Mexico State, which is actually the largest state in Mexico. Mexico State has 16 million inhabitants, so it's a very important election. It's also a bellwether election. It's a state that the PRI has never lost.
To be frank, it plays horribly. Perhaps the great advantage we have right now—and by “we” I mean those people who are liberals, but liberal in a classic, British sense of the word, people who believe in economic liberty, people who believe in basic liberalism, in the rule of law and in democracy, those of us who have been fighting for that—is that we are now at a point where there is a consensus in Mexico that free trade, and particularly North American free trade, is a good to be defended. That is giving us more leeway than we would normally have.
I'm not quite sure how much longer it's going to last. As you know, these vacuums of power fill very quickly. If you start seeing these spaces where interest groups, particularly in agriculture but also in manufacturing, start smelling blood in the water, they are going to want to get their protection. We started seeing that with respect to a group of people from the countryside. They took to the streets here in Mexico in one of the protests, and they started asking to be included in the NAFTA renegotiation.
With this I'll close. Right now what we are looking at in terms of agriculture is that Mexico has realized that the white voters in Iowa are taken much more seriously than the brown voters in Texas or California. Given that reality, we have realized that it is very important to signal to the United States that those jobs would be in peril, that we would look for sourcing. We don't want to do it. We love the fact of being part of the North American supply chain. We love sourcing our products from North America. We believe very profoundly in the region as a whole and we want to protect it as a region. We want to make it more competitive, but these are things on which we cannot just idly stand by.
Thank you to the witnesses.
I'm glad that in all your presentations you focused pretty much on the positives of NAFTA. Maybe for too long we have taken NAFTA for granted. Maybe, as Canadians, we are quite humble and we don't like to trumpet—excuse the pun—about all of the great things that have happened with NAFTA in terms of the jobs that have been created and the quality of life we have been able to provide to our peoples.
Within those positive aspects, etc., we've created a robust strategy. We've been stateside speaking to politicians, corporates, different associations, stakeholders, and organizations, and deployed an all-of-government, all-parties approach to be able to share our message. It's really one around education and awareness.
I'd like to know what the Mexican strategy has been. Has it been similar? Has there been a different type of strategy? How have you engaged with those influencers and decision-makers in the U.S.?
I think we have the reference of what Mexico did when we launched the original NAFTA negotiation. The effort that was crafted by Mexico, especially within the United States and somehow also in Canada, but particularly vigorously in the United States, was outstanding.
Then I do share the same view as Agustín Barrios Gómez. We took NAFTA for granted and we fell into our comfort zone. Of course, businessmen have been very active creating all sorts of connections and value chains. However, if I understand your question correctly, it was the narrative that we lost. In a certain sense, we didn't think it was important to convince anybody about the virtues and good benefits of NAFTA.
This is something we have to do again. This is the right time. We could have done it before. We could probably have changed—or not—the narrative in the political spectrum last year during the electoral process in the U.S. However, this is the right time to do it.
Also, just quickly, regarding the question on agriculture, once we heard in Mexico about all the attacks against NAFTA, the Mexican government moved quickly to knock on the doors of Canadian producers in agriculture, and other producers. Theoretically you can say there is the possibility of export substitution, but certainly import substitution, and in particular the agricultural sector, is a very good candidate to shift from the normal U.S. chain to either the Canadian or Brazilian or Argentinian....
The ministry of agriculture has worked very closed with the agriculture ministry in Canada and with the producers in Canada. This will happen slowly, and I would say that Americans will at least lose a bit of that market share of the Mexican market.
Before crafting the open letter that we sent to President Peña Nieto on January 17 of this year, we had internal consultations with our members. I would not say they were with all 300 members, but I would say they were with representatives of all the sectors that are part of the chamber. We have manufacturing, mining, pharmaceutical services, etc.
The position is that this is a very valuable asset. Once you have a free trade agreement, you have not only access but certainty in the access. We heard months ago, or even weeks ago, from other members of the U.S. government that their concern would be to dismantle the dispute settlement system of NAFTA, which as you know comprises chapter 11 on the investment side, chapter 19, which is dumping and countervailing, and chapter 20, which is a general one. There is a concern among some of the members, particularly the Canadians who are investing in Mexico, that this could be eroded in any manner. Certainly any impact related to NAFTA would translate, as you rightly put it, into job losses and an environment that is uncertain.
The other position is that if you go to NAFTA article 2205, you have a hypothetical case in which one of the members—in this case, the U.S.—would be leaving NAFTA. It is spelled out clearly there that Canada and Mexico would continue to be there. The bottom line is to keep NAFTA going on if we reach that scenario, which I would say is improbable.
The other position of the main members of the chamber is that with or without NAFTA, two things should be done. We should exploit, on a bilateral basis, all the potential of our relationship. For example, in terms of connectivity—
Thank you, Chair. Thank you, all, for a very interesting discussion.
There's one thing that nags at the back of my mind, though. That is the 49%, or whatever you think it is, 50% of people who put Donald Trump into office. We can debate free trade, and I think everybody in this room would agree that it's a marvellous thing and it makes sense, but there are a whole whack of people who have given up on free trade.
Mr. Gómez, I appreciate it. I like that idea about this truck as a NAFTA truck, but I'll tell you, you drive that truck in southern Ohio and that would get the exact opposite reaction that you want.
Here's the thing. I appreciate too, Mr. Dade, what you said about Congress coming around. I see that happening, but I just read an article, I think it was this morning—I was just trying to find it now—and this guy's calling for three million people, with guns, out in the streets if they try to impeach Trump. That's how mad these people are. We cannot ignore the one thing that brought all this about, and that was the demise of midwest America. I suggest that every one of us should just take a road trip. I've done it. Just drive through the midwest United States and see what these people are so mad about.
We have to recognize that we're not talking about Mexico, and Canada and some other small country. We're talking about a country that, when I was first elected, had 26% of the world's GDP. Its armed forces spend more money than the top 13 countries in the world—that includes Russia, and China, and all the others. This is huge. We've talked about some wonderful ideas. We've talked about some ways that the Americans have not been very fair, and how Donald Trump...but I think he's just a phenomenon. It's the force behind him that we have to reckon with. I just wonder if somebody wants to touch on this, say a word on it, that we mend that before we come to the table and suggest we open up renegotiation.
I was a congressman for a centre-left party in the previous legislature. In terms of freedom to organize and to strike, those freedoms are perfectly safeguarded. The thing is that the organized labour movement has been more about filling their own pockets than it has about protecting workers' rights. The only problem is that internally they are democratic institutions, but that feudalism within our unions is popularly backed by the workers in general, so that is an issue.
Now, the party that I ran under is promoting a dramatic increase in minimum wage in Mexico. We're talking about a 200% increase, obviously staggered over time and whatnot. I think we need to revisit those issues.
I'd like to come back to defending trade as a freedom, because ideologically I think we've also been remiss. Trade is a freedom. Trade is by nature fair insofar as it is voluntary, and if we allow people to say, “Look, you know, I believe that brown people are getting a subsidy”—this is in the United States—“I don't like all these brown people receiving welfare because I see them as these welfare queens” and all of that, all of these horrible images get created over the years.
Yet they turn around, and the first thing that they want is protectionism, and protectionism is nothing but welfare that's paid for by consumers. These subsidies that people are asking for are of the same tenor as welfare, and we can't let them get away with this idea that protectionism doesn't have costs. It has significant costs. People will lose their jobs, and people's general welfare will go down insofar as they won't be able to buy the goods that they want.