American president Donald Trump intends to destroy the very tenets of North American cooperation.
For months, he has attacked the Canadian people, economy, and government. Once the closest of allies, the United States and Canada have quickly drifted apart in the era of the Trump regime.
His attacks on Canada, which have included calling the benign country to the north a "national security threat," are part of a scheme to force Canada into a disadvantageous trade deal.
Just yesterday, the president announced an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has committed Canada, the U.S., and Mexico to open trade policies and continental standards.
Trump has replaced NAFTA with what he calls the "United States – Mexico Trade Agreement," effectively kicking Canada out of the trilateral pact.
The announcement sent Canadian officials scrambling. Canada foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has already embarked for Washington in hopes of negotiating a favourable deal for the alienated country.
But with the leverage of an agreement with Mexico, tarrifs on Canadian goods, and the threat of economically debilitating levies on Canadian auto-parts, Trump is in a position to coerce Canada to sign onto the NAFTA replacement.
The office of the American trade representative proudly touts on its website the provisions of the new U.S. – Mexico agreement that Canada may soon join.
Indeed, much of the accord enforces American standards on foreign cosignatories.
One point in particular sticks out for the tremendous consequences it would have should Canada agree to it: digital copyright.
The new trade agreement commits members to what the U.S. trade representative calls "a notice-and-takedown system for copyright safe harbours." This is shorthand for a system in the United States by which copyright holders can force perceived copyright infringers to remove their content.
According to attorney Zachary Strebeck, this provision forces internet service providers to immediately take down any material that a creator claims infringes on their copyright. The system has received widespread criticism for the disadvantage it presents for internet entrepreneurs, whose products and content are subject to the ire of jealous competitors.
"Notice-and-takedown" makes it more difficult for internet users to access illegally shared material. Because it also does not prevent internet-users from re-uploading pirated material once it has been taken down, the scheme produces an endless contest between these users and copyright holders. Illegally shared material is constantly reformatted or moved for this reason.
Canada, by contrast, currently enforces a "notice and notice system" that does not require the immediate removal of pirated material. Perceived copyright infringers are simply notified of their potential violations. This system produces less contention and protects some rights of internet creators that have uploaded pirated material.
But if Canada signs on to Trump's new agreement, these rights will be utterly destroyed.
We will know soon whether Canada can negotiate a good deal for Canadian consumers or succumb to pressure from the Trump administration.
In the meantime, a group of Canadians has begun a petition to urge the Canadian government to reject these restrictive terms. Read and sign the petition here.