Free advice on free(er) trade

download (1)There is an excellent article in The Telegraph by Stephen Harper ~ yes, that Stephen Harper, our Stephen Harper ~ in which he advises our British friends on how to approach free(er) trade in the wake of the Brexit.

In it, Prime Minister Harper says to the folks in the United Kingdom that “As you embark on the uncharted path of Brexit, political and business leaders in the United Kingdom can look to CETA as a model for a modern, robust, comprehensive trade deal. The first lesson, though, is that there is no shortcut to such an agreement.” And he enumerates the many steps that took place between 2007, when bilateral discussions were opened, until 2016 when the deal was finally signed, albeit not completely “sealed and delivered.” He suggests, also, that “The world desperately needs more international trade agreements. In an age where structural deficits, loose money and low growth are becoming the norm, trade expansion represents one of the few tools to spur job creation and economic growth in developed countries …. [and] … Comprehensive deals that cross all sectors of the economy are not simple matters. They must be negotiated in private with steely perseverance, excruciating attention to detail and steadfast patience.  Tactical distractions, extraneous crises and negotiation fatigue are real dangers. They can only be mitigated with adherence to the longer-term strategy and an determination to dispense with diversions.”

Comprehensive trade deals are what Britain needs, now, with many countries, including those in the EU and, of course, with Canada; and Canada needs a comprehensive trade deal with the UK which has, still, the 5th largest national GDP in the world.

This is excellent advice for both Prime Ministers Theresa May and Justin Trudeau as they both ponder how to “grow” their economies is trying times.

Prime Minister Trudeau seems wedded to admittedly very popular deficit financing tactics … there’s only one problem: “more spending and higher deficits has proven to be a bad fiscal bet over the past 50 years,” as a report in the Globe and Mail‘s respected Report on Business puts it.

My Liberal friends (and I have some) would do well to remember that, for the past 75+ years, there are only three reasons why Canadians have thrown you out of office:

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Sheer fatigue … we just get tired of you, even the best of you …

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The stench of Liberal corruption is too strong, even for us …

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We understand that, after too much free spending social Liberalism, we need grownups (Conservatives) to put our economic house back in order.

Team Trudeau is, already, after only a year in office, in real danger of offending our sense of propriety and of making us fear for our pocketbooks.

The historical record, as I read it, anyway, shows, pretty conclusively that:

  1. Steady spending on new infrastructure and, even more importantly, on infrastructure maintenance ~ not sexy ~ and renewal is a good thing, and some long term borrowing is OK to build and maintain infrastructure which has a useful life that is longer than the debt;
  2. The better way to grow the economy is to let it loose … to be “open for business,” and to facilitate, where possible, making Canada “friendly” for business, industry, R&D, financing, insurance, banking and so on;
  3. Free(er) trade is always, 100% of the time ~ on this the historical record is quite clear ~ better for most people, most of the time than is protectionism, no matter how it is disguised.

Negotiating free(er) trade deals can be sexy … Prime Minister Trudeau is a bit of a global celebrity and he should be out and about, right now:

  • Visiting Europe, to shore up the CETA and help the EU quell fears about free(er) trade. He is the ideal point-man for this: he is fresh, young, popular, green, progressive and the free spending sort of liberal that, The Economist says, Europe wants;
  • Visiting the UK to open talks for a CANUK free(er) trade deal that will complement the CETA;
  • Visiting Asia to shore up support for the TPP, no matter what the next US president may have said or may decide to do;
  • Visiting India to put some impetus behind free(er) trade talks there;
  • Visiting China, for the same reason; and
  • Visiting other Asia-Pacific friends, especially the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and, of course, Australia and New Zealand.

Our prime minister should, in other words, exploit his celebrity, which is a real diplomatic asset, right now, to help open markets for our resources, goods and services.

Here at home he should direct his attention to pipelines and seaports, above all. It will cost him some votes in both the green and First Nations blocks, but, in the longer run it will serve Canada well, and perhaps the Liberal Party, too.

 

2 thoughts on “Free advice on free(er) trade”

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