It seems to me that Canadians need to take a lot more interest in this lady ⇐ Mary Ng. Ms Ng is Justin Trudeau’s newly minted Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade. (It’s a bit of an upgrade for her, she was, previously, the Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion. Jim Carr was the previous Trade Minister.) She is in what seems to me to be either the invidious or enviable position of having two masters: she serves in both Global Affairs Canada and in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada:
The Innovation, Science and Economic Development Team
The Global Affairs Team
Her mandate letter from the prime minister (and, again, kudos to the Trudeau regime for publishing them) says, in part:
“I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities. In particular, you will:
- Lead the implementation and maximization of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Increase support provided to Canadian businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that flow from being the only G7 country with a trade agreement with every other G7 country, drawing on resources from across government and from public and private sector partners, to ensure Canadian businesses and workers fully benefit from these agreements.
- Take immediate steps to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, including:
- Reduce the cost of federal incorporation by 75 per cent to $50 from $200;
- Eliminate the “swipe fee” on HST and GST for credit transactions; and
- Create the Canada Entrepreneur Account, administered through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and its partners, to provide up to 2,000 entrepreneurs, per year, who leverage BDC’s advisory services with as much as $50,000 each to launch their new businesses.
- Lead the export mobilization of our small- and medium-sized enterprises. This should include an examination of current programming and should ensure that Canada is maximizing the comparative advantage it holds with its vibrant diversity and diaspora communities.
- With the support of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, identify additional tools to help Canada’s agricultural industries get their products into global markets.
- Create a new Canada Commercial Consular Service by drawing on existing resources to better support small- and medium-sized Canadian companies facing commercial or trade disputes. This could include connecting companies with local legal assistance and support through enhanced services when they need it.
- Lead the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy and work across the government to meet the goal of doubling the number of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025. You should draw on the work of the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders.
- Lead work to implement our Export Diversification Strategy. This includes:
- Transparent performance measures to ensure we are focused on increasing and diversifying trade for the benefit of the middle class;
- Strategies to increase trade with key global markets whether or not a trade agreement already exists, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region;
- An assessment of how the Government of Canada’s trade resources are currently applied in contrast to where Canadians’ economic opportunities lie; and
- Work across the Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada, Invest in Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation to ensure that all resources are maximizing our trade promotion capabilities.
- Advance Canada’s trade agenda, pursuing new agreements and opportunities that create jobs and economic benefits for the middle class and those people working hard to join it.
- Advance the work of the Ottawa Group on World Trade Organization (WTO) Reform to achieve realistic, meaningful and pragmatic reforms to the WTO.
- Support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in work on Canada-U.S. Relations.“
That’s a big mandate!
Ms Ng’s biography (there’s an unofficial one, too, which appears to have been written by her staff) paints a picture of a very political person with an extensive public sector background. I’m hoping that her background equips her to deal effectively with the politics of trade, here in Canada and around the world … because trade, especially in the Trump era is as much about politics as it is about goods and services and balance sheets.
It seems pretty obvious to me that Boris Johnson’s first priorities, while the Brexit terms are being finalized, is to negotiate new trade deals. His “big three” are:
- The European Union;
- The USA; and
All three are fraught with difficulties and dangers:
- The EU is Britain’s biggest and best trading partner: it takes over ½ of all British exports and Britain accounts for about 7% of the rest of the EU’s total exports. But the EU is most likely to be deeply divided about how to approach the “new” Britain. There is a new team in Brussels; Angela Merkel is getting ready to retire; Emmanuel Macron is bedevilled by serious social and economic problems … and now comes the Brexit negotiations;
- The USA has Donald J Trump … need I say more?
- China wants another, big European partner but China needs Britain less than Britain needs China so the negotiations will be delicate and difficult.
It will be politically attractive for Boris Johnson to negotiate at least one “good” trade deal while the complex and difficult negotiations with the “big three” are underway. That creates an opportunity for Ms Ng and for Canada.
Now, Canada is not one of Britain’s top ten trade partners,* but it is (for now) one of the world’s top dozen or so trading nations. Canada and Australia are important trading partners. Britain has been interested in a quick, fairly seamless (based on the existing Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) deal with Europe) trade deal with Canada ever since the Brexit was agreed in the UK. Canada has shown some interest, but talks stalled last summer. Australia and Britain, on the other hand, have shown reciprocal interest in negotiating a trade deal soon after the Brexit is done. Canada needs to move back in.
What I hope Minister Ng will do, because I think she is an astute political operator, is to get on the phone with Janice Charette, Canada’s High Commissioner (ambassador) to the United Kingdom and say something like, “As soon as a new British Trade Minister is appointed, please tell her or him that I want to meet as soon as possible, I can fly over very quickly. I will bring a briefing paper with a half dozen ideas for building on a CETA+ deal which we can do quickly ~ ideas that will serve both Britain and Canada.” Immediately she hangs up on High Commissioner Charette she should phone her Deputy Minister for International Trade (John Hannaford) and say, “I want a set of briefing papers on trade with the UK. I want to be able to strike a quick, mutually advantageous deal that still leaves some room for future improvement. I want a dozen idea that will appeal to both British and Canadian interests. No virtue signalling, please, I want ideas that are advantageous to us and acceptable to the Brits. I think they want an early, easy “win” in international trade and I think we want to strike while the iron is hot.“
Ms Ng is, I hope, both bold enough and astute enough to manoeuvre a deal past both the ministers (François-Philippe Champagne and Navdeep Bains) with whom she works and past the PMO, too. If Canada works quickly and aggressively we can have a free(er) trade deal with the UK in the first half of 2020 and it can serve as a springboard for a partial CANZUK deal which can be an important next step in diversifying our trade.
* They are, in order: the USA, Germany, the Netherlands, France, China, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland.