Now that British Prime Minister Theresa May has, formally, told the European Union that the United Kingdom will withdraw, it is time for Canada to get it’s free(er) trade programme into high gear.
Prime Minister Trudeau, Foreign Minister Freeland and Trade Minister Champagne should, now, form three “tiger teams” to address three specific trade agreements while Minister Champagne’s department carries on ensuring that e.g. the CETA stays on the rails and working on other deals, too. The three tiger teams should focus on:
- NAFTA ~ which must be out firm, trade based, economic base. But this needs more attention than any other file because, according to a report in the Globe and Mail, President Trump’s proposals “go far beyond the modest “tweak” for Canada that Mr. Trump promised when he met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Washington last month. Instead, they would imprint Mr. Trump’s “America-first” approach to trade on the 23-year NAFTA accord;”
- A Canada/China FTA ~ which represents a HUGE opportunity for Canada; and
- A quadripartite (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom (CANZUK)) agreement amongst the nations of the “old Anglosphere,” something for which Erin O’Toole has promised to campaign ~ which will provide all four partners with more and better leverage for other trade agreements. I read that informal talks ~ they must be informal until Britain is actually out of the EU ~ are already underway; they need to be expanded into a quadripartite forum.
The three “tiger teams” should be directed by Prime Minister Trudeau, and Ministers Champagne and Freeland, as a triumvirate, and each team should be, individually, headed by a junior cabinet minister in Minister Chanpagne’s department and then each should be led by a seasoned, tough, skilled deputy minister and should have added help from the private sector and from people like David Emerson, a former federal cabinet minister and, now, BC’s envoy for softwood lumber . Adding three junior ministers to cabinet will pay off and be worth the costs if:
- The right people are picked; and
- Our prospective trade deal partners understand that their deal has its own “voice” at the cabinet table.
Team Trudeau’s political aim should be to (at least) initial three new, broadly favourable trade deals before the next election. It will be difficult, but not impossible to accomplish and the rest of the Trudeau agenda ~ all the green, feminist and sunny ways stuff ~ needs a solid economic foundation which only free(er) trade can provide.