‘No good purpose is served’


In Colombia yesterday, the Prime Minister attacked critics of free trade with the country.

“No good purpose is served in this country or in the United States by anybody who is standing in the way of the development of the prosperity of Colombia,” said Harper. “Colombia is a wonderful country with great possibility and great ambition. And we need to be encouraging that every step of the way. That’s why we have made this a priority to get this deal done. We can’t block the progress of a country like this for protectionist reasons.”

… Opposition to the trade deal has come from critics such as the federal NDP in Canada. Similarly, U.S. lawmakers have dragged their feet on approving a similar free-trade deal with Colombia, citing concerns over human rights. But Harper scoffed at those concerns, calling them a phony excuse. “I think there are protectionist forces in our country and in the United States that don’t care about development and prosperity in this part of the world. And that’s unfortunate.”

The free trade deal with Colombia was the subject of extensive debate in the House: see here, here, here, here, herehere and here.

When I was reporting this piece on the House of Commons, MPs were debating a deal with Panama. The discussion I sat in on then—including debate between Scott Brison and Peter Julian and later Joe Comartin and Brad Trost—dealt with many of the same points of contention.


‘No good purpose is served’

  1. Can someone please explain to me why Harper speaks of the US in this context?  I had a quick look at the agreement and it is a deal between Canada and Colombia, no? 

    • I presume that the question he was asked was along the lines of “Prime Minister, critics back in the United States have held up that country’s free-trade deal with Columbia because… what do you think of American and Canadian critics who claim…”.

      It could even have been an American journalist posing the question.

  2. LOL now I really AM worried about the state of our economy.

    Mr Harper has not only fallen off his moral high horse with a resounding crash,  he’s tossed the horse under the nearest bus, and become best buddies with China, Colombia etc, and he’s flirting with Europe.

    The only question remaining is if he’ll end our subsidizing, so we can sign on to TPP and others like it as well.

    Fall should be interesting. 

    • He’s continuing  his anti-americanism rant – and choosing to do this from abroad. It is the business of US lawmakers to question the actions of their government. Harper should put a sock in it.

      • He said nothing anti-American. He never has in fact.

        He was denouncing protectionism.

      • “anti-Americanism” rant???

        I’m not sure that criticizing protectionist arguments coming from the U.S. is “anti-Americanism”.  Even if it was though, I’m pretty sure that a Canadian Prime Minister is virtually morally obligated to criticize U.S. protectionism.  We’ve bombed countries over issues that were arguably less of a threat to Canada than American protectionism is.

        • What protectionist arguments are being invoked for the deal with Colombia? The dissenting arguments I have heard center around the lack of protection of worker’s rights in the deal, since this is obviously a problem in Colombia.  This would also tie in to the above news story, that suggest the problem seen by US lawmakers is human rights.  Or is the suggestion that human rights is just a cover for protectionism – I think that is what Harper is suggesting, but Harper has a political position to protect and I don’t take him seriously on the issue of human rights in this context.  Do you?

          • That’s a fair point. 

            One could certainly argue that Harper’s notion that human rights are being used as a cover by people who are actually just protectionists is incorrect, and/or disingenuous.  Then again, I do see the logic in the argument that things are improving in Columbia, and that in such an environment opening Columbia up to more international trade and better international relations will actually help the human rights situation there improve more rapidly, and that continuing to isolate Columbia economically through protectionist methods could have the opposite effect.  I think the situation is complicated enough that we won’t really know whether free trade has a positive or negative (or neutral) effect on human rights in Columbia until years after the fact.  I do think it’s entirely possible that it could help though, and I hold open the possibility that the PM sincerely believes that it will (I think it probably will myself).

            All that said, my argument that Harper was making an “anti-protectionist” argument was meant more in contrast to the idea that his arguments were “anti-American”.  He was clearly attacking “American protectionism” not “America”, whether or not one believes that American protectionism is actually what is holding up U.S.-Columbia free trade.  There’s certainly an argument to be made that Harper’s invocation of “American protectionism” is a red herring designed to deflect attention away from American concerns about human rights in Columbia, but I don’t think there’s an argument to be made that Harper’s comments were “anti-American”.

          • I agree it is not anti-American.  

            Harper liked Bush better than he likes Obama (if he likes Obama at all, not sure) but that is not being anti-American.  Lots of Canadians have opinions on the US government  – and it doesn’t mean they are anti-American when they don’t approve of the current government. 

      • He’s criticizing the Democrats, not the Republicans who have been gung ho to sign a deal without addressing labour concerns.  Obama has insisted they be addressed in the agreement.  Here’s where it’s at –


    • I thought you loved China? You were going on and on and on about China awhile ago

      • Yup, glad to see Harper finally smartened up. LOL

  3. A wonderful country?  Maybe for Harper when he is surrounded by body guards.  But the US Embassy has a violent crime warning out to citizens, warning them not to do anything foolish in Colombia, like sitting in an outdoor dining area or using a cell phone in public or hailing a taxi, in order not to risk their lives.  Harper’s idea of wonderful?

    • Our government has similar warnings.  It makes Mexico look like Disneyland.

  4. ”I think there are protectionist forces in our country and in the United States that don’t care about development and prosperity in this part of the world. And that’s unfortunate.” – Says a protectionist who endorses supply management.

    • Some of us no longer expect consistency from him.  It minimizes the disapointment.

  5. Go Harper go!   We beat the Yanks on this one, lol.   And as for the critics – G&M has a good read on that.  

    “The deal passed through Parliament. It was the first free trade agreement to include a human rights assessment.

    Mr. Brison noted that the Prime Minister, in his announcement this week, highlighted the human rights aspect of the deal when he said that, “Through economic engagement Canada can help the Colombian people achieve peace and prosperity.”


  6. He really is a mediocre person isn’t he?

  7. From the article:

    “Colombia is slowly making progress toward political stability after decades of violence between left-wing revolutionary guerrillas, right-wing death squads and assorted drug warlords.”

    Maybe Canadian and US newspapers could ‘slowly improve’ their coverage by acknowledging the Colombian government’s role in protecting and abetting the death squads for decades?

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