Good for Prime Minister Trudeau

Despite having, apparently quite badly, “screwed the pooch” in his recent Asia excursion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might have stumbled on to the right track on the trade file.

John Ivison reports, in the National Post, that “Justin Trudeau is expected to announce he is heading to Beijing early next month to launch free trade talks with China … [while] … The trip has not been finalized but diplomatic sources suggest he will head east in the first week of December.

That’s good … free(er) trade is always the best policy for Canada ~ not always popular but always better than protectionism. It is also good tactics, right now, when he (Trudeau) is trying to fudge the Trans Pacific Partnership deal and is facing the prospect of NAFTA being cancelled  by the imbecilic President Donald Trump.

But the Canadian Press reports that while a trip to China may be in the mill, “Canada isn’t ready to launch formal free trade talks with China just yet.” The reason for the hesitation is, the Canadian Press suggests, because “Public polling has shown mixed results on Canadian attitudes towards China but most polls suggest a plurality of Canadians don’t know whether they want to pursue closer trade ties with China or not.” This is a government that takes polls far more seriously than it does the views of e.g. business leaders, economists and trade policy analysts.

I have cautioned about both China’s ambitions and the trade deal they will try to negotiate. They will want a lot and will be willing to give only a little. Canada must be the same … above all Canada may need to overcome its natural fear: China is much, much bigger and much, much more “foreign” than is the USA, and many Canadians are still worried about increased American influence as a result of free(er) trade.

But, prime Minister Trudeau appears to be making the right first step … and he should remember an ancient Chinese maxim …

Slide1

… we, Canadians, want our resources, our finished products, our services (like banking and insurance) to go to China in return for Chinese cash, and we, in turn, should want to allow the Chinese to sell us goods and services, too, and to invest in Canada. Free(er) trade is, broadly and generally, good for all partners so long as it is freely and fairly negotiated. We should congratulate Prime Minister Trudeau on taking another small step in the right direction … even as we must hope that he will be a better negotiating partner with the Chinese than he was in Asia, just last week, with the TPP partners.

 

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