Saturday, 28 January 2017

Building a Wall

The decision by the 45th President of the USA to build a wall is not a new idea. He follows in the footsteps of Communist East Germany (German Democratic Republic) which built a wall around Berlin, starting on August 13, 1961, to prevent its citizens from escaping to freedom in the West. That wall lasted for just over 28 years until November 9, 1989, when the country that had built it collapsed along with its wall! The Berlin wall was the symbol of the cold war. What will the symbol of the US President’s new wall be?

Before the Berlin wall was built, the  Soviets launched a blockade of West Berlin in 1948 in the hope of starving out West Berlin. The blockade failed in 1949, thanks to Berlin’s American friends and allies, after they had flown 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and other goods into West Berlin!

The flood of East German freedom seekers was enormous: 19,000 in June 1961, 30,000 in July, at the beginning of August 16,000, and on August 12 another 2,400! The relentless outflow of East Germans into the West prompted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on the night of August 12, 1961 to permit the East German Government to seal off their borders for good!

After the Berlin wall had been built, US President John F. Kennedy, greeted West Berliners in a speech on June 26, 1963, only a few months before his assassination on November 22, 1963, with the words ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)! Will history eventually compare US Presidents in terms of the walls with which they were engaged?

At this point it is not yet known what the wall between the USA and Mexico will look like. One wonders whether its designers will look at the characteristics of the Berlin wall, as described by one writer:
A 12-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide mass of reinforced concrete was topped with an enormous pipe that made climbing over nearly impossible. Behind the wall on the East German side was a so-called “Death Strip”: a gauntlet of soft sand (to show footprints), floodlights, vicious dogs, trip-wire machine guns and patrolling soldiers with orders to shoot escapees on sight.

Michael Müller, the Mayor of Berlin, told Mr. Trump “don’t build that wall”: “We Berliners know best how much suffering the division of an entire continent, cemented by barbed wire and wall, has caused.” (Source: Independent)

What was the legacy of the Berlin wall? Freedom for at least 5,000 who managed to escape and death for 171 people who were known to have been killed trying to escape!

What will the legacy of the US/Mexican wall be?

Image Source: The Telegraph

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Fighting Fire with Fire

© CC BY 2.0 - Images Money
The 45th American President has threatened Canada. While Canadians predominantly include Americans among their friends, they must now fight fire with fire. To do that we need your engagement, and that of every other Canadian.
Therefore, the purpose of this blog post is to request your committed engagement to reduce American products and services to your personal buying options of last resort, if the American threat should come to pass. It may require a change of your comfortable mind-set.
What is the issue? Canada can get seriously hurt if the new president follows through on his threat to reopen the Auto Pact between the USA and Canada and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), both of which have immensely benefitted Canada and the USA, and if he introduces a new border tax as discussed by Ted Carmichael in Ripping up NAFTA should actually worry Canadians less than this horrific Republican border tax (National Post, January 18, 2017). Sitting back “grinning and bearing it”, as Mr. Carmichael has suggested, as a last resort, is no option.  
Obviously, no effort should be spared to arrive at a negotiated understanding of the extent to which the Auto Pact and NAFTA have benefitted the North American trading partners (Canada, Mexico, USA) over several decades and to spell out the potentially harmful effects which their modification could have on Canadians, Mexicans and Americans. Nevertheless, under no circumstances should Canada’s negotiating politicians crawl to Washington, begging for favours, cap in hand.
Years ago many Canadians avoided the “rusty Ford” on the grounds of perceived low quality and built-in obsolescence. Now, if the Auto Pact should be cannibalized, Canadian consumers should avoid, as a matter of principle, all GM, Chrysler and Ford products that are not built in Canada. There are enough European and Asian automobile manufacturers to compete with US manufacturers so that US-built vehicles can be excluded without any appreciable adverse effects on Canadian motorists. All it takes is the collective consumer will and determination to avoid them!

Canadian consumers can also avoid other US products. Canadians do not have to buy California wines. If those wines are not bought, they will disappear from our shelves! As for oranges, Canadians can easily avoid imports from Florida, since excellent citrus fruit from Morocco and Spain is already on our shelves. The same is true for many other agricultural and other consumer products and services.

To the extent possible, Canadian travellers should treat themselves to North America’s recognized best airline – Air Canada - as well as other Canadian carriers, as their airlines of choice.

Are Florida, Arizona and California the only escape options for Canada’s “snow birds”? Why not try to go just a little further south, say to Cuba, other Caribbean countries, Mexico or Central America, or, for that matter, to other long-term destinations such as the sun-drenched coast of Portugal’s Algarve, where excellent long-term rates are available?

Action by Canadian consumers would complement that of US consumers, including the Grab your Wallet Campaign (see their background).

Since about three quarters of Canada’s trade is currently with the USA, it would surely be a long-term benefit to Canada, if we could use the potential disruption of the Auto Pact and NAFTA, or the imposition of a border tax, to diversify our trading relationships, say by increasing our trade with Europe, Asia, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean.

I have two requests for you:
1.      I would like to hear from you how effectively you can change your buying habits by consciously checking out products and services not only on the basis of quality and price, but also in terms of country of origin, and then, if you have a reasonable choice, avoid products and services originating in the USA.
2.      If you agree with this approach, please share this blog post on your social media with family and friends, asking them to avoid US products and services whenever possible, and to pass on this message through their social network.

Let us together stand up for Canada!