I'm a journalist from Fort Macleod in Alberta, Canada.
I need to collect opinions for some features I'm writing
for publications in Canada and the USA.  I hope to hear
from farmers, ranchers and others involved with agriculture
in Canada, the USA and Mexico.

     Rather than list specific questions, which could
restrict the discussion, I'll explain what the stories
are about, and what general kinds of questions they address.
I hope members of this talk group will have something to
say on the subject.  If so, you are all invited to reply
on the list, or to my email address which is:


     Please include your own email addresses, as I may
wish to contact anyone I wish to quote and/or name in
print.  Telephone numbers would be useful too, but it
is not advisable to post your phone number on open email
forums.  So if you do put your phone number on your
reply, please send it to my private email address.


     The North American Free Trade Agreement is supposed
to grease the wheels of trade between Canada, the USA
and Mexico.  Under NAFTA, manufactured goods, farm
produce, investors and workers are ultimately supposed
to be able to cross borders with little or no hindrances
or tariffs applied.

     For now, however, the agreement seems to have had
a limited impact on food producers.  They still bicker
over which countries unfairly subsidize crops or
livestock, while trade and the movement of workers
remains restricted at our borders.

     Meanwhile, intensive farming is unpopular with
some consumers.  They believe it has increased costs,
reduced food quality and damaged the environment.
And many producers who have invested in modern high
intensity operations, find themselves simply working
for their bankers, always struggling to stay one
step ahead of their next loan payment.

     So as our leaders continue refining the NAFTA
agreement, should they include new standards for
food production and quality; new standards of
environmental responsibility; new definitions
of what constitutes a subsidy?

     If so, should these new standards aim
for more holistic farm and ranch operations,
with lower infrastructure requirements for
items like buildings and equipment?  Or should
they stick with existing intensive farming
models, requiring more infrastructure? In other
words, should we use NAFTA to redefine the
ideal North American farm or ranch?

     True continental freedom of trade and
movement, might require agreement on such
fundamental issues as universal Medicare; the
right to bear arms; capital punishment; freedom
of expression etc.  So if we used NAFTA to
create a new set of ideals across the
continent, to what extent are we willing to
share our national sovereignty with each
other?  Must Americans, Mexicans and Canadians
create a joint continental legislature or
parliament, like the European Parliament
in Brussels?

     And perhaps the most important question
of all: if we forge ahead with our continental
economic alliance, how can we ensure that each
of the three national partners will raise its
standards to the highest denominator, instead
of dropping to the lowest.  For example, how
can we make sure the most important aspects
of the US Constitution and Declaration of
Independence, are honoured by Canadians and
Mexicans?  Or how can we convince doctors in
the USA to stop resisting a civil minimum in
health care for all?

     Indeed, just how far must we go in
homogenizing our three countries, if we want
to reap the benefits of free trade?  And is it
worth the trouble?

     Thanks in advance for giving some of these
weighty issues some consideration.  I'll keep
watching this space for your replies.

Gary Chambers
Gary Chambers

Public Access Internet
Upanet at the University of Lethbridge
e-mail: GCHAMBERS@upanet.uleth.ca

or phone: (403) 553-2756