The Globe and Mail is running an article online in which it is reported that the WTO is reviewing EI as a potential unfair subsidy to the fishing industry.
While there are lots of problem with the way EI / UI has been used as a poor stand in for regional economic development in the Maritimes, even the thought, however, that the WTO could consider social protection as an unfair subsidy to industry is both hogwash and dangerous.
This just opens up a Pandora’s box of problems. Is universal health insurance an unfair subsidy? Think about it. Why should a US company which has to shoulder some of the cost of its employee’s healthcare have to compete against a Canadian company which does not?
By employing such logic any number of social programs and supports could be declared trade and investment distorting. The good news is that despite what the Cons would like to happen—i.e. the WTO made us kill social protection—this dog will not hunt with the Europeans or with the many other nations.
That said, it is fine display of just how corrosive the managed trade and investment regime we now have under the WTO is. At a time when Free Trade dogmatists are pumping out reams of paper warning of a growing tide of sentiment against that great oxymoron called free trade, this is indeed bad timing.
If the free traders at the WTO do not want to be unmasked as vicious apologists that the they are, then they should decline this dance. Nothing could be worse PR.