FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism

shutterstock_372930061

Twenty-first century “Canadian” corporate capitalism is quite the racket.

Built with public subsidies, a Montréal firm can shift its ‘head office’ to a tax haven and workforce abroad, but Ottawa will continue to use its diplomatic, economic and military might to advance the company’s reactionary international interests.

As part of its coverage of the Panama Papers, the Toronto Star recently reported that Gildan Activewear paid only a 2.8% tax rate on more than $1.3 billion US in declared income the last five years and it’s unclear if any of the apparel company’s measly $38 million in tax was paid in Canada.

After benefiting from government subsidies and financial backing from Quebec’s Fonds de solidarité labour investment fund, Gildan opened a subsidiary in Barbados sixteen years ago to sidestep Canadian tax. The firm took advantage of a tax treaty that permits companies to repatriate profits from the small Caribbean nation, which has a 1.5% corporate tax rate, without being taxed in Canada.

Concurrently, “free” trade agreements have enabled Gildan to shift its (unionized) Canadian and US production to Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti where it’s pursued an aggressive anti-union “sweatshop” policies. Without a high-profile brand name (until recently) Gildan has focused on producing T-shirts and socks at the lowest cost possible. Any increase in the dismally low wages it pays in these countries is a threat to their ultra-low-cost production model, which competes with even lower wage jurisdictions in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Despite Gildan moving its production to low-wage jurisdictions and its headquarters to a tax haven, Ottawa has continued to advance the company’s interests. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and backed a military coup in Honduras five years later partly to protect Gildan’s ultra-low-wage production model.

At the start of 2003 Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government increased the Haitian minimum wage from 36 gourdes (US$1) a day to 70 gourdes. Of course, this was opposed by domestic and international capital, which used Haiti’s lowest wages in the hemisphere as a way to beat back workers’ demands in other Caribbean and Central American countries. At the time most of Gildan’s work in Haiti was subcontracted to Andy Apaid, who led the Group 184 domestic “civil society” that pushed to overthrow Aristide’s elected government. Coincidentally, two days after the US/France/Canada coup, Foreign Affairs stated “some Canadian companies are looking to shift garment production to Haiti.” By 2009 Gildan was the country’s largest employer after the state, employing up to 8,000 Haitians (directly and indirectly) in Port-au-Prince’s assembly sector.

To the west, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya raised the minimum wage by 60% at the start of 2009. Gildan’s opposition to Zelaya’s move to increase the minimum wage was one reason Ottawa tacitly supported the ouster of the elected president’s later that year. Under pressure from the Maquila Solidarity Network, Nike, Gap and two other US-based apparel companies operating in Honduras released a statement called for the restoration of democracy three weeks after the military overthrew Zelaya. With half of its operations in the country, Gildan refused to sign this statement. Since the coup Gildan’s Honduran workforce has grown from 11,000 to 26,000, making it the largest private employer in the country.

A Globe and Mail Report on Business profile described Gildan as “the ultimate fruit of globalization.” A firm that pays little tax, low wages and that employs the state to advance its reactionary international interests — neoliberalism at its finest.

More articles by:

Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail