Op/ED – Continuing Canada’s legacy as a freely trading nation

December 18, 2015

Continuing Canada’s legacy as a freely trading nation

Trade is a vital part of Canada’s economy. And as the new Liberal government begins to grapple with the economic reality of stalled global growth, it will surely look to trade as a way to stimulate the Canadian economy.

The previous government understood the importance of international trade.  We acknowledged that one in five Canadian jobs is linked to exports and that nearly 60% of our country’s GDP relies on trade.  We also knew that Canadian businesses can compete with the best the world has to offer.  That is why we expanded our free trade relationships around the world; from five countries when we took office, to 51 by the time we left.  We consulted widely with the business community, both here at home and internationally.  We wanted to know what our small and medium sized businesses needed to successfully compete abroad.  We needed to find out what would make Canada more attractive to international investors.

These consultations resulted in such landmark agreements as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), among others.  Our country’s entire portfolio of free trade agreements make Canada the only G7 nation with free trade access to all of the US and Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific continents.  That’s over 60% of the world’s economy.  Our consultations also resulted in the creation of the Global Markets Action Plan, which continues to harness our diplomatic assets abroad to increase access for Canadian small and medium sized enterprises within markets that hold the most promise for them. 

All of this was done under the shadow of a volatile international economy that has struggled to regain its footing since 2009.

The Liberal government is going to face similar challenges. With the fall of the Canadian dollar, low oil prices and impending trade disputes with the United States (such as the renegotiation of the Softwood Lumber Agreement and the repeal of Country of Origin Labelling), our new government is going to have to continue to diversify Canada’s trade portfolio so that our economy can weather current and future economic disturbances.

A look at Minister Freeland’s mandate letter gives us some insight into where the Liberals want to go on the trade file.  It’s encouraging to see that Freeland will continue to build upon the previous Conservative Government`s pursuit of increased trade with both India and China. 

In November of 2010, former Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan launched free trade negotiations with India, with the ninth round of these negotiations concluding this past March.  Studies show that a free trade agreement with India could boost the Canadian economy by at least $6 billion, which is welcome news in our current economic climate. 

We also offered a cautious approach to trade talks with China, opting to ratify a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement (FIPA) as a first step. There are obvious obstacles to overcome in expanding our trade relationship with China, but Canadian exporters deserve our support as it is our second largest export market. Hence, the FIPA was a prudent first step, as it ensures that Canadian companies are treated fairly and benefit from a more transparent business environment. 

The new Liberal government is receiving a trade portfolio that is markedly more diverse than the last time they possessed it.  In the new global economy, increased trade is one of the best forms of stimulus and I believe that this is a value largely shared by both Liberals and Conservatives.  We need to cooperate to help Canadian businesses capitalize on opportunities abroad

I urge the new government to continue to build Canada’s legacy as a freely trading nation.

Randy Hoback, MP (Prince Albert)
Hoback is the former Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade



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