NAFTA

Control of oil at issue in NAFTA re-negotiation

As "NAFTA 2.0" negotiations open, a provision that essentially locks in Canada's current levels of oil exports to the US is drawing opposition from unlikely allies across the Canadian political spectrum but winning staunch support in the "Oil Patch," as the country's petroleum industry is colloquially called.  The "proportionality clause" originally appeared in the US-Canada Free Trade Agreement of 1988 and became a major issue in that year's national election that returned Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to office. It was replicated six years later in the North American Free Trade Agreement—although Mexico won an exemption. The clause can be invoked if a government in Canada reduces US access to Canadian oil, natural gas, coal, electricity or refined petroleum products without a corresponding reduction in domestic access to those resources.

Trump risking war with Mexico for useless wall?

The planned meeting in Washington between President Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, was called off after Trump signed his Jan. 25 executive order decreeing construction of a wall on the border—accompanied with more bluster about how Mexico will pay for it. Since the cancelation, Trump and Peña Nieto have engaged in an unseemly Twitter war, each taking responsibility for calling off the meeting. Things got worse when the White House raised the option of making Mexico pay for the wall with a 20% tariff on all goods coming in from our southern neighbor. The threat portends a trade war with the United States' third biggest trading partner.

'Gasolinazo' protests rock Mexico

Several states across Mexico have been shaken by days of angry protests in response to a jump in the price of gasoline sparked by a new deregulation policy. Protests, road blockades and civil strikes are reported from 12 states since the new policy was instated Jan. 1. Looting was reported in Hidalgo, Veracruz and México states, with over 350 stores sacked. Several federal police agents were briefly taken hostage by protesters when they tried to break up a roadblock in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Two protesters were killed in the Ixmiquilpan clash, while one Federal District police officer is reported dead in rioting on the outskirts of Mexico City. Police also fired in the air to scatter protesters in Ecatepec, México. Nearly 900 have been detained nationwide. (Sol de Mexico, Jan. 6; Animal Politico, Jan. 5; Apro, Jan. 4)

Obama's seventh year: a World War 4 Report scorecard

World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. This year, the stakes got much higher, with multiple foreign interventions in Syria and ISIS striking in Europe. On the night of Obama's 2016 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:

Obama and the KXL-TPP contradiction

An ominously ironic juxtaposition of news stories, for those who are paying attention. First, the apparent good news. President Obama announced Nov. 6 that he's rejected the Keystone XL oil pipeline, after seven years of deliberation on the question. Obama invoked the prospect of leaving the 800,000 barrels a day of Canadian shale oil the pipeline would carry in the ground. "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change," the president said. "And, frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership." (NYT, Nov. 6) But one day earlier, Obama notified Congress of his intent to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and finally released the text of the heretofore secretive trade deal. The notification starts a 90-day countdown to the next step in the approval process—seeking Congressional authorization. (The Hill, Reuters, Nov. 5)

Guanajuato: campesino protesters occupy city

Some 2,000 campesinos blocked streets in the city of Celaya, in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, demanding that state and federal authorities take measures in response to the plunging price of maiz and sorghum. The protesters used scores of tractors and other farm equipment to shut down the area around the offices of the Agricultural Development Secretariat (SAGARPA). Francisco Escobar Osornio, director of the Democratic Campesino Union (UCD) said the state government had created a 120 million-peso fund to support prices, but a pledged matching fund from the federal government has not been forthcoming. "For this reason, it has been agreed to realize mobilizations to see that this problem is addressed," he said. The protesters have threatened to block federal highways across the state if their demands are not met. (Reforma, La Prensa, Sept. 29)

Mexico: wages stay down in stalled economy

Even as Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto continues to push for economic "reforms," government agencies report that the economy still has one of the worst records in the hemisphere. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew just 1.1% in 2013, the poorest result in four years, and the government has reduced its forecast for growth in 2014 to 2.7%. The Banco de México, the country's central bank, cut its key interest rate this June to stimulate economic activity, warning that the growth outlook was "weaker than expectations even a couple of weeks ago." Only one-half of the population works in the formal economy, and even these workers are probably earning less than their parents did. Mexico's legal minimum wage has fallen at least 66% in purchasing power over the last three decades, according to Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC, CEPAL in Spanish).

Subcommander Marcos 'ceases to exist'

A new communique from Subcommander Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) (online at Enlace Zapatista, and in translation at Roar Magazine) states that he is stepping down as the public voice of the indigenous Maya rebel army in Mexico's Chiapas state. It says he is to be replaced by a "Subcommander Galeano," named for the nom de guerre of José Luis Solís López, the Zapatista adherent killed on May 2 in a confrontation with a rival campesino group. "I declare that the one known as Insurgent Subcommander Marcos ceases to exist," the statement reads. "The Zapatista National Liberation Army will no longer speak through my voice." The text cites changes in the rebel movement since it announced its existence to the world in a brief armed uprising launched on New Years Day 1994, the exact moment that NAFTA took effect:

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