The trade election
Re The United States found it easier to blame trade than to deal with tech, labour disruption (Nov. 8): Andrei Sulzenko argues the real reason for economic dislocation – as evidenced by poor employment prospects for underskilled workers – is that technological change continues its path of “creative destruction.” It’s a common theme of late and it has some merit – but it remains an incomplete assessment.
It’s an undeniable fact that numerous companies in both the United States and Canada displaced manufacturing jobs in droves to take advantage of cheap labour in low-wage countries. Did these countries have better technology? Doubtful. So when those left behind do their shopping at Wal-Mart or the local dollar store, it’s quite apparent to them that the majority of goods on offer are imported. They sure aren’t being manufactured at home!
Both countries are challenged by significant trade imbalances – this in spite the Canadian dollar being artificially engineered to remain at toilet-bowl levels. Is this a result of disruptive technology or companies driving the bottom line? Vic Bornell, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Coattails and elites
Re The Clinton connection (Nov. 5): From 1992 to 1996, I had the pleasure and privilege to work for Frank Giustra, and I am always amazed to see suggestions to the effect that he needed to piggyback on Bill Clinton’s reputation and connections to secure access to natural-resource assets that he might otherwise not have access to. To even suggest such a thing is ludicrous to me.
In 1992, Mr. Giustra was already meeting with leaders of developing countries, particularly those in South America who responded to the Latin American sovereign-debt crisis by opening their doors to more liberalized trade and investment. He saw an opportunity when others seemed not to, but he needed more than vision to secure rights to valuable resource assets. By offering reliable, verifiable access to Canadian mining expertise (which had gone fallow in the aftermath of resource-unfriendly B.C. politics) and European capital (he had created an enormously successful institutional mining-financing operation in London), he easily established his bona fides. And by promising to build schools and hospitals on-site for the workers hired locally to help develop the properties, he showed an acute understanding of what was required politically to clinch a deal.
He did this over and over again. In my view and that of his many colleagues and admirers, Mr. Giustra was, and apparently remains, one of Canada’s most fascinating yet misunderstood business geniuses, and he enjoyed august company well before he met Mr. Clinton. He doesn’t need to ride anyone’s coattails. Nelson Smith, former managing director and head of investment banking, Yorkton Securities, Toronto
Neil Woodyer’s assertion that mining companies are good at digging holes but not so good at “soft relations” raises a key question: What is it about the Clinton Foundation and other such organizations that makes them good at social and economic development?
If overcoming poverty is a matter of money, the problem would have long since been solved. But poverty is about powerlessness – as in the ways and means by which the global financial elite became the elite. This superclass, this new class of international development actors, previously called philanthro-capitalists, must be held to high standards of accountability for the world they may be making. Bruce Moore, Ottawa
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