Quote: Originally Posted by AKA
I'm new to this site, so please be patient with me as I try to talk to you all about this.
I have this idea that there should be fair labour laws for the people who make the products we buy, regardless of the country they live in. So could our government pass a law requiring that all imported products are made by workers who have some sort of minimum standard for workplace safety, hours, and pay?
It could be a good idea, possibly. But we need to consider a few points:
1. How would we enforce it? I suppose we could set up an organization that would operate from Canada's embassies abroad, and that participating companies would have to pay a service feeto this regulatory agency. Since it would be abroad, it would be totally voluntary since Canada has no jurisdiction abroad. However, participating companies would have to pay the fee, meet the required standards, and thus get the stamp of apporval that allows them to sell barrier-free to Canada. To avoid accusations of double standards, of course companies in Canada would also have to pay the necessary fee to Canada's labour department to regulate them (rather than have taxpayer support the department directly, though granted the Canadian consumer will still pay these costs indirectly owing to its being an overhead cost of the company that will simply be passed on to the consumer).
2. We must accept that prices will likely rise as a result, causing inflation which would hit Canada's poorest the most.
3. We must beware of retaliatory policies from other countries that could impose similar trade restrictions on Canada. After all, Canadian labour laws might be of a higher standard than that of other countries on some fronts, but possibly lower on other fronts.
One positive thing I see with such a policy (and this is a BIG plus) is that a foreign company would not be penalized owing to its country's and Canada's political relations. Essentially, while Canada would be free to introduce all the tarrifs and quotas it wants on other countries, any company, anywhere in the world, that meets Canadian labour standards would automaticlaly be exempt from any such tarrifs, quotas, embargos, etc.
That positive aside, though I'm not against the idea per se, I'd want to know what the likelyhood of retaliation is. Overall I'd rather an open market all around, but if that's not possible, then your proposal above could be viewed as a preferable compromise than the current one where all companies are penalised by Canadian tarrifs. Thi way a company always has a way out regarless of any Canadian tarrif, quota or embargo.
Quote: Originally Posted by coldstream
My response to your proposal is that it is well intentioned, but unenforcable. The only way to reverse the disastrous dismantling of our economy that Free Trade has imposed on our nation, is re-institute the National Policies of John A. MacDonald, by re-establishing a rigorous and permanent system of tariffs to protect Canadian industries from exploitive labour pratices that have been given free reign by the Global Free Market paradigm.
We need to re-establish our sovereignty over our currency and credit, by rescinding the international dictates of Monetarism, in order to provide for a vital environment for internal investment and development of industry. It is essentially the system we had before the rescinding of the Bretton Woods Agreement in the early 1970's and the rise of a criminal conspiracy by international oligarchs under the auspices of the WTO.
I see. And there will be no retaliation in kind? What goes around comes around. If we raise tarrifs against other countries, they risk retaliating, thus hurting our industries too. In the end, it becomes a ***-for-tat war in which neither side gains and both sides suffer. Brilliant!
As for enforcement, it would not be easy to enforce, but possible. For instance, let's say Canada established a labour department at all of its embassies abroad, raised tarrifs across the board, made membership to the labour department open to all, and then gave totally free access to Canadian markets to all companies that meet our labour standards, then they would have an incentive to cooperate if they see a major market opportunity in Canada. I don't see it as a necessarily good idea since it could also push inflation in Canada, but on the other hand, it's no worse than the current universal tarrifs we have which also inflate prices anyway. In fact if anything, the proposal in the OP would likely be preferable to what we have now since at least a company would have a way around the tarrifs, quotas and embargos.
Politically, it could also be devastating for oppressive regimes. Imagine for a moment that Canada has an embargo against North Korea and announces that it is willing to establish a labour office at a Canadian embassy in North Korea for all North Korean companies that want to participate, thereby potentially exempting them from our tarrifs.
If this offer becomes universally known in North Korea but the North Korean government will have none of it, then suddenly some North Korean companies might become a little irate with their government.
Now while I like the idea of the OP in principle, I will say that in my opinion, Canadian labour law itself needs a revamp mind you.
Quote: Originally Posted by AKA
Thanks for the reply Coldstream and Goober.
I think I'm a free market kind of guy. I don't like the idea of gumming things up with bureaucracy and red tape. But it does seem unfair that business A in Canada can't compete with business B in China for Canadian dollars because business B doesn't have to play by Canadian rules to win those dollars. There has to be some way to level the playing field.
My concern is that the dictators who don't care about justice for their people will end up owning us in the long run. Then we'll end up in the same boat. I think Martin Luther King said something about injustice for the one turning into injustice for all. Are we drinking a coolaid of cheap imports?
Why do you think it would be unenforceable, Coldstream?
I think you are right Goober that oil produced by a dictatorship probably hasn't the environmental concern that we do.
While I could see the idea in the OP as being potentially feasible, we need to consider too that in poorer countries, even in a democratic ssytem, their priorities are sometimes different from ours. For instance, in India I'm sure that the environment currently takes a far second place over raising the people's salaries, not because the environment is not important, but rather because food comes first. Looking at it that way, let's say we introduced our minimum wage laws to Indian companies. There is a risk that many would simply stop selling to Canada, causing unemployment, and so any advances in environmental policy in India would suddenly be reversed so as to alleviate the burden on the population as a temporary solution.
Looking at it that way, we need to ensure we avoid dong more harm than good. One solution I could see would be replacing any kind of minimum wage with a simple democratization of the workplace, such as codetermination laws. This would mean that the workers of more profitable companies would have the ability to negotiate higher salaries for themselves whereas those of les profitable companies would willingly take pay cuts while also ensuring that management take them too.
This would ensure that workers have a voice in the company and real empowerment to look after their own interests rather than a minimum age imposed from above. Besides, if we want to introduce economic democracy, we can't act like economic dictators ourselves.